Friday, June 29, 2007

A Thought About Slippery Slopes

Over at Alternet, Deborah Kory has an article on the use of psychologists at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and other prisons, in which she discusses the odd ideas that the APA has concerning these issues. How Psychologists Aid Torture She starts by telling us what the professional ethics are:
Psychologists strive to benefit those with whom they work and take care to do no harm. In their professional actions, psychologists seek to safeguard the welfare and rights of those with whom they interact professionally and other affected persons. -- Principle A, Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct, 2002
and then goes on to discuss some of the methods of disconnect employed by psychologists to protect their self-esteem from the knowledge of what they are doing -- and isn't it interesting that psychologists have the same defense mechanisms as the rest of us?
Many psychologists have their own mechanisms of denial and self-delusion about their role in society. "We're not political," they'll tell you, "We are just doing what we can in our way to make things better,
Most have no understanding of the collective impact of their profession and no sense that they have any obligation as psychologists to social responsibility. Wars, global poverty, ecological destruction? "That is not in our professional domain,"
The American Psychological Association . . . Some of its respected members have been actively aiding and abetting torture at illegal detention sites set up by the Bush administration, and the leadership of the APA has actively blocked attempts by its members to ban any and all engagement with interrogation proceedings at sites like Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and the secret detention centers set up through the Administration's policy of "extraordinary rendition"
And this got me thinking about other areas where psychologists use their knowledge of people in ways that don't seem to bother them at all, but which I consider immoral. Like working for marketing firms developing strategies (such as the "nag factor") to pit children against their parents in the grocery store. Or using their best knowledge of child development to create the Telletubbies TV program -- a program targeted at toddlers, when the American Pediatric Association recommends that children under six not watch any television at all.

It seems to me that the minute a psychologist teamed up with a corporation to separate you from your money by separating you from your child, they had taken the first step along the path to Abu Ghraib. Had the goods they were hawking been good for the child, it would still have been an affront to decent behavior. When we look at the goods they help sell our children, the Bratz dolls, kiddie make-up, and alcopops, it looks to me like they have been waxing the slippery slope to this current abomination pretty heavily all along*. Should it surprise us that some psychologists are willing to help in the development of "interrogation" techniques when others have been willing to sell the innocence of children for all these years?

* Let's not even think about the supposedly anti-tobacco ads that actually encourage teens to smoke by reminding them that smoking is an adult activity.


Anonymous said...

Psychologists don't have the "do no harm" concept in their credo? I'd not thought about this before, but you are so right. How do they get away with what they do for the government and for big business?

It's a shame that some of them ruin the reputation of those who are sincere individuals committed to healing others.

donna said...

My shrink gets on my case when I haven't seen him for a while. But sometimes I'm doing well and just want my medication and not to be reminded of any problems and don't have any need to talk things through. It annoys me when he insists on seeing me at times.

And he wanted me to call him when I had other medical problems going on, as if I had to have some psychological trouble just because something physical was going on. I found that really annoying, too. Insisting that I had to be troubled when in fact I was not.

I think shrinks really don't get that sometimes we really don't need them, and that they have no business being involved in torture or marketing or other areas. They overestimate their importance, if anything.

Torture is wrong no matter how many shrinks they get to supervise their programs.

Tabor said...

I had never thought about any of this and thank you for bringing it to my attention. I guess I had always assumed that psychologists were altruistic by nature and therefore trusted members of society (for the most part). Wow, here I am 60 and still somewhat naive.