Accompanying the struggle within the American Psychological Association regarding the participation of psychologists in abusive interrogations has been a struggle regarding the flow of information and discussion. At times the APA has encouraged “dialog” as a way of constraining dissent to mere talk and avoiding action. At other times they have sought to restrict discussion of the issues. Recently, there have been more reports of a repressive approach toward dissent. James Coyne here writes of his experiences with the Society for a Scientific Clinical Psychology, resulting in his expulsion fro its listserv. As a former SSCP member, I am absolutely shocked. The listserv used to be an authentic, “anything goes” forum. Evidently those days are long gone, at least when criticism of potential APA torture collusion is concerned.
Here are James’ comments. I welcome comments on these issues from other SSCP members:
The listserv of the Society for a Science of Clinical Psychology (SSCP) was once a vibrant forum for science-oriented clinical psychologists. Although its membership was always tiny, it mounted effective challenges to the policies of the larger APA. When the APA infamously allowed politics to intrude into the editing of American Psychologist, the outcry from the SSCPnet earned us the label of ‘internet barbarians’ from the beleaguered APA CEO Ray Fowler.
The SSCPnet listserv entertained discussions of whether there was a still a place for science at APA and even proposals that SSCP secede from APA. The listserv repeatedly challenged the APAâ€™s policies on psychologists participating in torture and questioned the process by which an accused war criminal was put on the APA Council of Representatives after having been defeated in an election.
But SSCPnet’s bark was always bigger than its bite, it was always much more vocal that politically effective. It was ripe for the larger organization to move in, impose carpetbagger rule and suppress free expression and democracy. Lee Anna Clark, a former Vice Provost at the University of Iowa had never really participated on the listserv but she managed to get elected president of SSCP. By a series of authoritarian and manipulative moves, she profoundly changed the character of the listserv. She claimed an executive privilege to bring people on to what had previously been open only to dues paying members. Rather than engage the membership in debate, she took to protecting it from views with which she disagreed. For instance, when her good friend Bev Thorn appointed Col Larry James to the APA board, she threatened anyone who discussed it with expulsion.
Lee Anna effectively ended democracy on the listserv. Democracy is not about having a vote, but about being able to be informed, discuss options, and make choices. Under Lee Anna, members were not told who the candidates were for office until they went to a website and cast their vote. The actual votes were never disclosed and the time lapse between the vote and the announcement of the winner allowed the leadership to monitor the vote and gather new votes to affect the outcome, a privilege denied the membership. It is not surprising that Lee Anna was succeeded by a full time military psychologist, and with Lee Anna now remaining on the SSCP as past president, she worked with the military psychologist to suppress further discussion of APA’s involvement in torture. For instance, presentation of evidence that led to Canadian human rights to call for an investigation of Col James as a war criminal because of the torture of a Canadian juvenile he had supervised was suppressed because it was deemed presenting opinion as fact, a distinction of course not tenable nor applied elsewhere on the listserv. But such decisions by Lee Anna and the board could not be debated.
The listserv is now under carpetbagger rule, with the president elect never having posted on the listserv, but already joining Lee Anna and the military psychologist in policing it and suppressing discussions threatening to the larger organization. The prospects are for the next president to be a carpetbagger and for the vote similarly to be kept secret.
There has been capriciousness and inconsistency to Lee Anna’s role on SSCP. She has done little more than turn what had been a sometimes interesting forum into a bore and the consistent principle she has observed is that she cannot trust PhDs and students to evaluate for themselves what is true versus untrue, opinion versus fact. Rather, these important distinctions need to be decided by authorities who insulate themselves from anyone who might disagree with their judgments. I am sure Lee Anna made an excellent vice provost…
October 2nd, 2009