from Understanding the “F” Word: American Fascism and the Politics of Illusion, David McGowan
Lies My Psychology Professors Taught
[New] technologies are
conditioning a growing segment of the society to regard all deviance as sickness
and to accept increasingly narrow standards of acceptable behavior as scientifically normative ... Together the new
programs and technologies are part of a burgeoning establishment involving
welfare institutions, universities, hospitals, the drug industry, government at
all levels, and organized psychiatry (itself in large part a creation of
government) ... The ideal, in the view of the behaviorists, is the paranoid's dream, a method so smooth
that no one will know his behavior is being
manipulated and against which no resistance is therefore possible ... There is
no longer a set of impositions which he can regard as unjust or capricious and
against which he can dream of rebelling. To entertain such
dreams would be madness. Gradually, even the ability to imagine alternatives
begins to fade. This is, after all, not only the best of all possible worlds; it
is the only one.
Peter Schrag Mind Control, Pantheon, 1978
I have a degree in psychology from UCLA. I don't know exactly where it is, though I'm sure it's safely
filed away somewhere. It's not really worth much
though. I don't mean that it doesn't have much value in
the job market, though that is surely the case. No, it isn't worth much because it was awarded to me on the
supposition that I had gained a substantial level of knowledge about the field
of psychology, which in hindsight was clearly a faulty premise.
It's not that I didn't try to learn. I actually did a very good job of regurgitating back the information that was presented to me, even graduating with honors. No, the problem was that - despite the exalted reputation of the UCLA psychology department - none of my professors seemed to be particularly interested in teaching me what psychology is really about.
I have a much better understanding now, though I had to fill in many of the gaps in my education on my own. Doing so, by the way, took considerably less time than the four years I spent being spoon-fed pseudo-knowledge at college. Society doesn't place any value on the acquisition of such knowledge however, so I don't have any kind of degree for my post-college education. Nevertheless, I thought I'd pass along some of the information that I wasn't formally taught, for whatever it's worth.
One thing I was taught was that John Watson is a much revered figure in the field of psychology, considered the father of 'behaviorism.' Watson, who began his career in 1908 as a professor of psychology and the director of the psychological laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, was perhaps most notable for venturing into the field of infant study in 1918 - at the time a largely unexplored area of research.
Watson conditioned a fear response in an infant identified only as 'Little Albert,' afterwards triumphantly declaring that "men are built, not born." Ten years later, Watson penned what was at the time considered the bible of child-rearing, Psychological Care of Infant and Child, assuming the mantle that would later be worn by Dr. Spock.
Unfortunately, there are a couple of elements of this story that seem to have been omitted from my textbooks, one of which is that Little Albert was not just some random infant; he was, in fact, the illegitimate son of the good doctor himself. And how did the reigning expert on childcare fare as a father? Not too well, it seems: Albert Watson was so traumatized by his upbringing at the hands of his father that he committed suicide shortly after reaching adulthood.
Watson had long since left his position at Johns Hopkins amidst a nasty divorce from his first wife, presumably precipitated by her displeasure with the revelation that Watson's experiments had included impregnating his nurse and torturing their resultant offspring. In 1921, Watson headed for Madison Avenue where he put the behavior modification expertise he had acquired by traumatizing infants to work on a society-wide level, ushering in the era of modern propaganda (oops, I meant to say advertising). Along the way, he would find
Following closely in the footsteps of Dr. Watson was B.F. Skinner, the other revered figure in the behaviorist school of psychology. Skinner - who had received a defense grant during World War II to study the training of pigeons for use as part of an early missile guidance system (I don't just make this shit up) - invented what he termed the 'Air Crib' in 1945, which was essentially a sensory deprivation chamber built specifically for infants.
Like Watson, he used his own child as a human guinea pig, raising her in the thermostatically controlled, sound-proof isolation chamber for the first two years of her life, cut off from human contact. Skinner ultimately followed a bit too closely in the footsteps of his mentor; Debby Skinner, like Albert Watson, committed suicide in her twenties.
In 1948, Skinner joined the faculty of Harvard, putting him in the company of such luminaries as Dr. Martin Orne, the head of the Office of Naval Research’s Committee on Hypnosis and later a prominent member of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. Skinner and Orne - as well as numerous others at Harvard, including Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert - received heavy funding from both the CIA and the U.S. Army.
In 1971, Skinner published an unabashedly fascistic diatribe entitled Beyond Freedom and Dignity, advocating a dystopian society in which freedom and dignity were outmoded concepts. It earned him a cover story in Time magazine and the honor of having his work named the most important book of the year by the New York Times.
Also on board at Harvard at the time was Dr. Henry Murray, overseeing the work of Leary's Psychedelic Drug Research Program and various other CIA-funded projects. So deified was this man during my years at UCLA that an entire undergraduate course focused almost exclusively on his supposedly brilliant work. Yet during that course, no mention was ever made of the fact that
Perhaps even more revered than
If you're wondering how it is possible to study the conditioning of soldiers to survive torture without inflicting that very same torture in the process, the answer is simple: it isn't. A few years later, West achieved a moment of fame when he injected a beloved elephant at the Oklahoma City Zoo with a massive 300,00 microgram dose of LSD to observe how it would react; Tusko's reaction was to promptly drop dead.
In 1964, West was called upon to evaluate the 'mental state' of a man by the name of Jack Ruby, at the time being held pending trial for the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald. West quickly determined that Ruby was delusional, based on his obviously absurd belief that there was some sort of fascist conspiracy behind the assassination of President Kennedy. Dr. Jolly, as he was known to colleagues, ordered Ruby drugged with 'happy pills.' Ruby subsequently died of cancer, which he maintained he had been deliberately infected with. Having finished up that assignment, the doctor soon after found himself a crash-pad in the Haight where he could 'observe' the acid subculture in its native environment by drugging unwitting 'subjects.'
West is probably most notorious for proposing in 1972 to then California Governor Ronald Reagan the creation of a Center for the Study and Reduction of Violence, to be built on a remote abandoned missile test site in the
At the time, the two were employed at 'detention centers' in Paraguay and Chile, which is a nice way of saying that they were working at torture/interrogation centers run by Nazi exile communities (many of these detention centers - including the notorious Colonia Dignidad in Chile - still exist to this day).
Also recruited by West was Dr. Frank Ervin, one of a trio of Harvard psychosurgeons who had not long before proposed lobotomy as the solution to urban 'rioting'. The center was to work in conjunction with
The goal of the center was to identify 'predelinquents' and treat them before their 'deviance' and supposed propensity for violence could be manifest. The team believed that predelinquents could be identified on the basis of several factors: socioeconomic status (poor), age (young), ethnicity (black), and sex (males). Treatments under consideration included electroshock, chemical castration, experimental drug therapy, and psychosurgery -- better known as lobotomy (the 'surgical' destruction of the frontal lobes of the brain).
Lobotomy was, curiously enough, developed in fascist
By the post-war years, lobotomy was big business, warmly embraced by the Veteran's Administration and heartily recommended for vets suffering from combat-related 'disorders.' Moniz's procedure did not prove too popular with his patients however. In 1939 he was shot and partially paralyzed by a former patient. Sixteen years later, another former patient finished the job, beating Nobel laureate Moniz to death.
Electro-shock therapy was likewise an import from fascist
One name that never came up in my years at UCLA was that of the aforementioned Dr. David Ewen Cameron. Considering that Cameron is probably the most honored North American psychiatrist of the last half-century, this appears in retrospect a rather remarkable omission. During his career, Cameron founded the Canadian Mental Health Association and served as chairman of the Canadian Scientific Planning Committee, president of the American Psychiatric Association, president of the Canadian Psychiatric Association, and the first president of the World Association of Psychiatrists. He was also the psychiatrist most thoroughly co-opted by
His intelligence career began at least as early as 1941, when he was sent by Allen Dulles to
By 1943, Cameron had founded the Allan Memorial Institute in
In 1946, Cameron helped craft the Nuremberg Code on medical research, setting ethical guidelines for human research that were perhaps nowhere more flagrantly ignored than at his own Institute. Cameron's MK-ULTRA operation conducted what were undoubtedly among the most appalling of the CIA-funded mind control experiments (those that are well documented, anyway), utilizing what he euphemistically termed 'depatterning' and 'psychic driving.'
During the depatterning phase, the objective was to completely obliterate the existing personality. This was done by restraining the victims (oops, I meant patients) for weeks on end and subjecting them to massive doses of drugs and repeated electroshock treatments. Cameron preferred the Page-Russell electroshock technique - controversial even among the shock docs of the time - which employed six consecutive shocks rather than just one big jolt. This wasn't quite enough for Cameron though, so he cranked up the power to as much as twenty times the normal strength, and administered the 'treatment' two or three times a day. Concurrently given three times a day were drug cocktails containing every combination of incapacitating and mind-altering drug imaginable.
Following some two months of this medical torture, patients were then subjected to psychic driving, during which they were again incapacitated by drugs - including curare, a paralyzing agent which can be lethal - while taped messages were played continuously through speakers placed in pillows or in helmets the unfortunate victims were forced to wear. This also went on for weeks on end, with the subjects remaining drug-addled throughout the process. Cameron experimented with other techniques as well, including psychosurgery and the extensive use of LSD; one woman was kept locked in a small box for thirty-five consecutive days.
In 1960, Cameron was asked by Allen Dulles to evaluate the mental state of U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers upon his return from the
Premier spymaster William Buckley took the agency’s file on Lumumba to
Working with Cameron on his experiments - some of which are believed by some researchers to have been terminal - were Leonard Rubenstein, an Englishman and former member of the British Army’s Royal Signal Corp, and Jan Zielinski, a Polish-born engineer who knew only limited English and rarely spoke. These two built a 'grid room' and an isolation chamber in the basement of Allan Memorial and were given unlimited access to patients, despite the fact that neither had any formal medical training or qualifications. Also on board was Dr. Hassam Azima - rumored to be a blood relative of the U.S.-installed Shah of Iran - and Dr. Wilder Penfield, a prominent neurologist.
Penfield was one of the pioneers in the field of electromagnetic control of the brain in the 1960's. Most prominent in this area of research was Dr. Jose M.R. Delgado, who made the front page of the New York Times when one of his remote-controlled brain implants stopped a charging bull dead in its tracks. Delgado - who brought his ideas here from fascist
In his Orwellian titled book, Physical Control of the Mind: Toward a Psychocivilized Society, Delgado wrote that "the integration of neurophysiological and psychological principles [would lead] to a more intelligent education, starting from the moment of birth and continuing throughout life, with the preconceived plan of escaping from the blind forces of chance and of influencing cerebral mechanisms and mental structure in order to create a future man with greater personal freedom and originality, a member of a psychocivilized society, happier, less destructive, and better balanced than present man."
He supported the mass drugging of
Delgado also made the rather remarkable observation that: "In some old plantations slaves behaved very well, worked hard, were submissive to their masters, and were probably happier than some of the free blacks in modern ghettos." Ahh, the good old days. Delgado next noted that: "In several dictatorial countries the general population is skillful, productive, well behaved, and perhaps as happy as those in more democratic societies."
Five years after penning his manifesto, Delgado appeared before the U.S. Congress and proclaimed: "We need a program of psychosurgery for political control of our society. The purpose is physical control of the mind. Everyone who deviates from the given norm can be surgically mutilated ... The individual may think that the most important reality is his own existence, but this is only his personal point of view. This lacks historical perspective ... Man does not have the right to develop his own mind." Such talk earned Delgado funding from the Office of Naval Research, the Air Force Aero-Medical Research Laboratory, and the Public Health Foundation of Boston.
What has been covered here barely scratches the surface of the
lies and omissions that characterized my education in the field of psychology.
There is considerably more that could be said on the
subject. I could mention, for instance, that two of the most widely referenced
psychological studies - Philip Zimbardo's Stanford
Prison experiment and Stanley Milgram's obedience
studies - were funded by, and performed at the request of, U.S. military and
I could also mention that the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) - created in 1946 by the congressional National Mental Health Act - was borne of the combined efforts of Robert H. Felix (head of the military's Division of Mental Hygiene during World War II), General Lewis Hershey (director of the Selective Service System), and the chief psychiatrists of the Army and the Navy. In fact, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders - the bible of modern psychiatry - was also an invention of the military/intelligence complex, developed during World War II by Brigadier General William Menninger to codify 'deviant' behavior, and later institutionalized by the APA.
And of course I would be remiss were I not to note that the twin pillars of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, were both fascist sympathizers. In 1933 - the year that Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party ascended to power - Germany’s influential Journal of Psychotherapy published an article by Dr. M.H. Goering, a cousin of Hermann Goering, urging psychotherapists to make "a serious scientific study of Adolf Hitler’s fundamental work Mein Kampf, and to recognize it as a basic work." The editor of the journal openly calling for the Nazification of psychotherapy was Dr. Carl Gustav Jung.
Sigmund Freud had close ties to the Reich as well, particularly to a man named George Viereck - the illegitimate grandson of the Kaiser who had ties to SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler and was perhaps the most avid supporter of Nazism in
In 1926, Viereck interviewed Freud - whom he had known for many years - on the subject of anti-Semitism, and in 1930 published that interview in a collection entitled Glimpses of the Great. Freud would later state that: "I can highly recommend the Gestapo to everyone." And since wherever Nazis congregate,
What then is this thing we call 'psychology'? Put in the simplest possible terms, it is just another appendage of the national security infrastructure designed to attain social control and enforce conformity to the fascist state. It in fact is nearly indistinguishable from the American criminal justice/penal system. There is at least one major difference though - the psychiatrist is allowed to serve as prosecutor, judge and jury in seeking the involuntary confinement of 'deviants' in mental institutions that are indiscernible in form and function from America's rapidly growing prison complex.
The harsh reality is that psychology has little to do with bettering the human condition and alleviating suffering, and everything to do with lending legitimacy to the corporate capitalist state and justifying as individual failings the ever increasing levels of suffering inflicted by the state onto society. As Frederick Winslow Taylor - the exalted father of 'scientific management,' an early euphemism for the deskilling of labor and the reduction of the American labor force to interchangeable, easily exploited automatons - so succinctly stated many decades ago: "in the past the man had been first; in the future the system must be first."
Not long ago, my teenage daughter asked me why it was that so many people she has met in her life suffer from low self-esteem. Why indeed? The answer, it turns out, is quite simple: we are all victims of one of the big lies of American society - the one that says that if we educate ourselves, work hard, and apply our talents, there is absolutely nothing we cannot achieve.
We are taught from birth that anyone in this great country can rise up to the highest strata of society if they so choose, that if we have the drive and ability, nothing can hold us back. George W. Bush articulated this very message from the campaign trail recently when he said: "One of the wonderful things about
Conversely, if we should fail we have no one but ourselves to blame, for we must not be smart enough, talented enough, or educated enough - or we just didn't try hard enough. The brutal reality though is that in the real world, the sons of the rich and powerful will assume their fathers' seats in the boardrooms of America regardless of their qualifications (George, Jr. being a prime example), while the most talented of kids from America's 'inner cities' will live and die without ever seeing the world beyond the confines of their neighborhoods.
That is the reality for the majority of Americans. And yet we are encouraged, in fact required, to set goals for ourselves that are impossible to attain, to buy into the Big Lie. When we inevitably fail to achieve these goals, which the social structure has deliberately put out of our reach, we are required to blame only ourselves. The system has not failed you, you have failed because you are a fucking loser. You're too fucking lazy to succeed. You're too fucking stupid to succeed. So stop looking for scapegoats and accept the fact that you determine your own fate.
That is what the system would have you believe. And it is, in the final analysis, the psychologist's primary job to reinforce that message. That is why it is that the nation that heralds itself as the truest form of 'democracy' is home to more psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, counselors, social workers, and psychic friends than any nation in the world. Not coincidentally, that same nation is also home to the world's largest penal system. That, apparently, is the price we pay for 'freedom' in this country, a peculiar kind of freedom that does not include the right to engage in any sort of 'deviant' behavior.
Freedom of that type, it seems, could conceivably pose a threat to the powers that be, lest too many people begin to question the 'right' of the wealthy and powerful to maintain their positions at the top of the food chain at the expense of the psychologically enslaved masses whose labors serve to fatten their investment portfolios. Better that we remain, in the words of George Orwell, in a state of "controlled insanity" -- for nothing could pose a greater threat to the system than a sane population fighting for survival in an insane world.