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Psychology

Feeling Down About The World? Rise Up!

Many people are quite legitimately feeling down about the state of the world right now. We are dealing with the United Nations climate report that confirms we only have a dozen years left to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, then there's the rise of fascism, the misery that led to the migrant caravan, the cynical right-wing vilification of that caravan, and numerous other wrongs that we either directly experience or see on a daily basis via our social media feeds (or both). There can also be a devastating feeling that we are powerless to change any of these deep injustices.

To Change The World, Treat Your Rebels Well

Throughout history, there has been tension between those who desire obedience to authority and those who question authority. It is those who question authority that contribute to social change, but our culture does not treat them well. We speak with psychologist Bruce E. Levine about his latest book, "Resisting Illegitimate Authority: A Thinking Person's Guide to being an Anti-Authoritarian - Strategies, Tools and Models" and the lessons it teaches for the political moment in which we find ourselves, how anti-authoritarianism is being suppressed and what we must do.

American Anomie

The French sociologist Emile Durkheim in his classic book “On Suicide” examined the disintegration of social bonds that drive individuals and societies to personal and collective acts of self-destruction. He found that when social bonds are strong, individuals achieve a healthy balance between individual initiative and communal solidarity, which he called a “life-sustaining equilibrium.” These individuals and communities have the lowest rates of suicide. The individuals and societies most susceptible to self-destruction, he wrote, are those for whom these bonds, this equilibrium, have been shattered. Societies are held together by a web of social bonds that give individuals a sense of being part of a collective and engaged in a project larger than the self.

The 1%’s Mind Games: Psychology Gone Bad

While millions of Americans grasp for lifelines amid the unforgiving currents of extreme inequality, multi-millionaires and billionaires comfortably ride the waves and add to their enormous wealth and power. The contrast is jarring to be sure, but it persists nonetheless because self-interested representatives of the 1% have become masters at using manipulative psychological appeals — I call them “mind games” — to defuse and misdirect our outrage. And when they succeed, we regrettably lose our bearings about what’s happening, what’s right, what’s possible, and what we must do. Exploring this phenomenon as a psychologist, my research has led me to a focus on five concerns that are particularly influential in our daily lives: namely, issues of vulnerability, injustice, distrust, superiority and helplessness.

Psychologist Openly Admits Training Police To Shoot First, Ask Later

By Shaun King in Alternet - For years, to any observer of police brutality, the idea that officers were shooting people first and asking questions later was a foregone conclusion. Such a practice, while blatantly obvious, seemed too unethical, too harsh for police to ever admit. Well, here it is. All of the proof we ever needed. Not only are American police, from coast to coast, shooting first and asking questions later, they are being trained to do so in seminars by a psychologist who openly promises them that he'll testify on their behalf if anything ever goes wrong. He's already done it nearly 200 times. Meet Dr. William J. Lewinski. No matter what the circumstances are in a police shooting, he's the guy departments lean on to say it was completely justified and unavoidable.

Anti-Torture Reforms Opposed Within Psych Group

By Spencer Ackerman in The Guardian - Opposition is building to intended anti-torture reforms within the largest professional organization of psychologists in the US, which faces a crossroads over what a recent report described as its past support for brutal military and CIA interrogations. Before the American Psychological Association (APA) meets in Toronto next Thursday for what all expect will be a fraught convention that reckons with an independent review that last month found the APA complicit in torture, former military voices within the profession are urging the organization not to participate in what they describe as a witch hunt. Reformers consider the pushback to represent entrenched opposition to cleaving the APA from a decade’s worth of professional cooperation with controversial detentions and interrogations. TheAPA listserv has become a key debating forum, with tempers rising on both sides.

3 Senior Officials Lose Their Jobs After Torture Scandal

By Spencer Ackerman in The Guardian - The torture scandal consuming the US’s premiere professional association of psychologists has cost three senior officials their jobs, part of a reckoning that reformers hope will lead to criminal prosecutions. As the American Psychological Association copes with the damage reaped by an independent investigation that found it complicit in US torture, the group announced on Tuesday that its chief executive officer, its deputy CEO and its communications chief are no longer with the APA. All three were implicated in the 542-page report issued this month by former federal prosecutor David Hoffman, who concluded that APA leaders “colluded” with the US department of defense and aided the CIA in loosening professional ethics and other guidelines to permit psychologist participation in torture.

Justice Dep’t Must Investigate APA’s Role in U.S. Torture Program

By Physicians for Human Rights - Physicians for Human Rights today called for a federal criminal probe into the American Psychological Association's (APA) role in the U.S. torture program following the release of a damning new report that confirms the APA colluded with the Bush administration to enable psychologists to design, implement, and defend a program of torture. In light of the 542-page independent report first reported by The New York Times, PHR again called for a full investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. “The corruption of a health professional organization at this level is an extraordinary betrayal of both ethics and the law, and demands an investigation and appropriate prosecutions,” said Donna McKay, PHR’s executive director. “Rather than uphold the principle of ‘do no harm,’ APA leadership subverted its own ethics policies and sabotaged all efforts at enforcement.”

US Torture Doctors Could Face Charges After Report Allegations

By Spencer Ackerman in The Guardian - The largest association of psychologists in the United States is on the brink of a crisis, the Guardian has learned, after an independent review revealed that medical professionals lied and covered up their extensive involvement in post-9/11 torture. The revelation, puncturing years of denials, has already led to at least one leadership firing and creates the potential for loss of licenses and even prosecutions. For more than a decade, the American Psychological Association (APA) has maintained that a strict code of ethics prohibits its more than 130,000 members to aid in the torture of detainees while simultaneously permitting involvement in military and intelligence interrogations.

Americans Are Angry About Inequality

In a candid conversation with Frank Rich last fall, Chris Rock said, “Oh, people don’t even know. If poor people knew how rich rich people are, there would be riots in the streets.” The findings of three studies, published over the last several years in Perspectives on Psychological Science, suggest that Rock is right. We have no idea how unequal our society has become. In their 2011 paper, Michael Norton and Dan Ariely analyzed beliefs about wealth inequality. They asked more than 5,000 Americans to guess the percentage of wealth (i.e., savings, property, stocks, etc., minus debts) owned by each fifth of the population. Next, they asked people to construct their ideal distributions. Imagine a pizza of all the wealth in the United States. What percentage of that pizza belongs to the top 20% of Americans? How big of a slice does the bottom 40% have? In an ideal world, how much should they have?

The APA Executive/CIA Torture Program

The description in James Risen's New York Times article yesterday - below - of the desperate meeting of the psychologist/torturers in the US 'intelligence" apparatus with the leadership of the APA following the released photographs about Abu Ghraib and trying to hide the obvious is hilarious - these are the keystone cops of "intelligence" - though the light this meeting casts on a kind of pseudo-neutral, "value-free" "professionalism" in the social sciences (political science as well) which serves the Pentagon and the CIA is anything but. With regard to a decent life for human beings, social science is never "value free" (see my Democratic Individuality, ch. 1). Minimally, writers on society, including would-be "scientists," need to seek the truth. Being value neutral between truth and error or ideology or knowing falsehood is self-refuting and despite any serious accomplishments in research, laughable.

The Need To Recognize The Psychology Of Evil

Around 1969 as a young boy, I looked-up the definition of the word, evil. I found something like, “Preference and actions for one’s own material wealth over the well-being of others.” I’ve always remembered that definition as the one that made the most sense. I’ve never found it again in more modern dictionaries. In 2007, Stephen Zarlenga (Executive Director, AMI) asked my opinion: “Carl, do you think there’s some kind of ‘slave gene’ that explains people worshipping the very leaders crushing them?” I responded, “Maybe. There’s plenty of consideration that the ‘human animal’ has a fear-reflex and reptilian brain function attracted to hierarchies. We certainly find this fear and system-worship in our work for monetary reform.” Today, considering our human condition, we observe: A nexus of evil among “leading” families in government, money, and corporate media who provably lie for unlawful wars (here, here, here, here), rapacious economics (here, here, here, here), and who use corporate media to “cover” these crimes while speaking to us never above a pre-teen level. Public inability to clearly recognize this evil, take action to stop it, and remember these acts define our “leaders.”

How The Brutalized Become Brutal

The horrific pictures of the beheading of American reporter James Foley, the images of executions of alleged collaborators in Gaza and the bullet-ridden bodies left behind in Iraq by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant are the end of a story, not the beginning. They are the result of years, at times decades, of the random violence, brutal repression and collective humiliation the United States has inflicted on others. Our terror is delivered to the wretched of the earth with industrial weapons. It is, to us, invisible. We do not stand over the decapitated and eviscerated bodies left behind on city and village streets by our missiles, drones and fighter jets. We do not listen to the wails and shrieks of parents embracing the shattered bodies of their children. We do not see the survivors of air attacks bury their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters. We are not conscious of the long night of collective humiliation, repression and powerlessness that characterizes existence in Israel’s occupied territories, Iraq and Afghanistan. We do not see the boiling anger that war and injustice turn into a caldron of hate over time. We are not aware of the very natural lust for revenge against those who carry out or symbolize this oppression. We see only the final pyrotechnics of terror, the shocking moment when the rage erupts into an inchoate fury and the murder of innocents. And, willfully ignorant, we do not understand our own complicity. We self-righteously condemn the killers as subhuman savages who deserve more of the violence that created them. This is a recipe for endless terror.
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