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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 10/29/15

Making a Choice: APA Reform or Business As Usual?

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First, from a familiar playbook, we have the obligatory attack on the patriotism of Hoffman and those who have criticized psychologists' participation in abusive detention and interrogation operations. The most outrageous example comes from two retired military officers, David Bolgiano and John Taylor. In a recent piece they described the Hoffman Report as a "classic attack of cowards" and also stated, "By the publication and release of this report, the APA becomes a willing co-conspirator to the likes of al Qaeda and ISIS." In contrast, Banks and his colleagues were praised as "mature and reasoned voices of moderation and morality on the battlefield."

Diatribes like this are not hard to find. Yet this one is especially noteworthy because it is featured reading on a new "PsychCoalition" website that presents itself as advocating for operational and national security psychologists and others who "do research, educate and train, and practice in"areas of applied psychology beyond traditional health and mental health." The organizers of the website have chosen to remain anonymous, but two APA divisions -- Military Psychology (Division 19) and Consulting Psychology (Division 13) -- are among the groups that are given front-page recognition. It seems likely that most members of those and other APA divisions would repudiate the invectives of Bolgiano and Taylor, even though the leaders of "PsychCoalition" obviously do not.

Strategic Deception

A second line of attack on the Hoffman Report comes from Thomas Williams, the current president of the APA's Military Psychology division. By his account, the Hoffman team has gotten it all wrong and corrective action is urgently needed. In a recent letter, for example, Williams asserted that Banks, Dunivin, and James (among others) "have been maligned as nefariously engaging in 'collusion' when their true motivations, intent and the outcome of their actions in concert with the APA Staff with whom they worked, all point to cooperation."

But Williams presumably understands that those who collude together are simultaneously engaged in some form of cooperation. Indeed, collusion is defined as "secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy, especially in order to cheat or deceive others." So the distinction he makes appears to have little merit. Nevertheless, Williams has recommended that APA leadership retract all criticism of the PENS process and task force and also issue an apology to the individuals who are identified in the Hoffman Report as having been involved in collusion.


Finally, there is a concurrent effort to cast doubt on the scientific legitimacy of the Hoffman Report. Psychologist Richard Kilburg, for example, has argued that the report lacks "scientific validation" and suffers from systematic bias. But his claims distort the logic and methodology of investigations conducted in response to indications of possible misconduct, negligence, or corruption. When a frantic homeowner calls 911 about suspicious noises, the prowler and broken window discovered by police represent validation, not bias. When customers raise doubts about the cleanliness of a restaurant, the roach droppings detected by health inspectors represent validation, not bias. When mine workers report concerns about diminished air quality underground, the malfunctioning ventilation system found by safety inspectors represents validation, not bias. And when longstanding allegations finally motivate an independent review that uncovers extensive evidence of APA-DoD collusion, that too is validation, not bias.

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Roy Eidelson is a psychologist who studies, writes about, and consults on the role of psychological issues in political, organizational, and group conflict settings. He is a past president of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, a member of (more...)

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