Bush challenges Kerry comments

My first thought — how in the world can Bush get away with a statement like this. ” ‘I think if you’re gonna make an accusation in the course of a presidential campaign, you ought to back it up with facts,’ Bush said Tuesday…”, referring to Kerry’s comment that a number of world leaders want him to supplant Bush. —CNN My second thought — Oh, my God, Bush still actually believes he is the truthteller around here. Quickly followed by — And so does much of the electorate, with no substantial challenge from the press… Give as much as you can to:

Rep. Henry Waxman’s Catalog of Administration Dissembling on Iraq

The Iraq on the Record report, prepared at the request of Rep. Henry A. Waxman, is a comprehensive examination of the statements made by the five Administration officials most responsible for providing public information and shaping public opinion on Iraq: President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.

This Iraq on the Record database identifies 237 specific misleading statements about the threat posed by Iraq made by these five officials in 125 public appearances in the time leading up to and after the commencement of hostilities in Iraq. The search options on the left can be used to find statements by any combination of speaker, subject, keyword, or date.

The Special Investigations Division compiled a database of statements about Iraq made by President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary Powell, and National Security Advisor Rice. All of the statements in the database were drawn from speeches, press conferences and briefings, interviews, written statements, and testimony by the five officials.

This Iraq on the Record database contains statements made by the five officials that were misleading at the time they were made. The database does not include statements that appear in hindsight to be erroneous but were accurate reflections of the views of intelligence officials at the time they were made.”

Oh, Fine, You’re Right…

…I’m Passive-Aggressive. “…(W)hile ‘passive-aggressive’ has become a workhorse phrase in marriage counseling and an all-purpose label for almost any difficult character, it is a controversial concept in psychiatry.” (New York Times) Dropped from the latest iteration of the ‘official bible’ of diagnoses in psychiatry, the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM-IV, because it is too common, too diffuse, to narrow, too variable, etc. etc., those who examine passive-aggressive behavior are divided even about the basics — is it immature or quite adaptive, in other words is it good or bad? It is worth noting that one of the sources for the terminology was the military, denoting a sort of passive obstructionism to discipline and demands noticed during World War II. Passive aggression, as I see it, forms the centerpiece of resistance to arbitrary and illegitimate authority, either in the political or the interpersonal sphere, in situations where outright defiance cannot be afforded. I often worry that our society is anger-averse, and all vociferous differences of opinion are labelled unreasonable and those who express them considered aggressors. This has several consequences — passive compliance; the aforementioned passive aggression; a widespread confusion between anger, which is a vehement expression of one’s wish that another change, and rage, which is undirected raw emotion waiting to attach to a target in order to be released; and outbursts of virulent rage, such as the euphemistic “going postal” and increasingly common incidents of deadly assaults in the workplace, malls and schools. Not to mention the likelihood that the American public will be rolling over and taking whatever the Bush administration dishes out for the next four years.

Skinner’s Box is a Pandora’s Box

I wrote several weeks ago about psychologist Lauren Slater’s new book, Opening Skinner’s Box –

Great Psychological Experiments of the Twentieth Century
. In a fascinating chapter about David Rosenhan’s “On Being Sane in Insane Places”, psychiatrist Robert Spitzer, the ‘godfather’ of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the Bible of psychiatric classification, is the subject of some very unflattering description. It appears that Slater has taken on a very formidable opponent; Spitzer has put his response to her portrayal of him in the public domain on the evolutionary psychology listserv. If Slater chooses to defend herself, we may be in for a monumental scientific-literary catfight. Be sure not to miss Spitzer’s final paragraph.

Robert L. Spitzer, M.D.

Professor of Psychiatry

Chief, Biometrics Research Department

Unit 60, 1051 Riverside Drive

New York State Psychiatric Institute

College of Physicians & Surgeons of Columbia University

New York, N.Y. 10032

Tel: (212) 543-5524

Fax: (212) 543-5525


February 21, 2004

Drake Mc Feely,

President, WW Norton & Company


500 Fifth Avenue

New York, N.Y. 10110

Dear Mr. Mc Feely,

In the third chapter of Lauren Slater’s new book, Opening Skinner’s Box –

Great Psychological Experiments of the Twentieth Century
, she has extensive

quotes from a telephone conversation that we had several years ago. Several

colleagues who have read the book have asked me if the quotes are accurate,

since they found it hard to believe that I had actually made so many

outrageous statements. The quotes of me that appear in the book are either

outright fabrications or represent what Slater imagines I could or would


It is of note that Slater could have – but did not – record our


Here are some of the statements that Slater claims I made and why I am sure

I never made them.

Spitzer pauses. “So how is David Rosenhan?” he finally asks. “Actually, not

so good,” I say. “He’s lost his wife to cancer, his daughter Nina in a car

crash. He’s had several strokes and is now suffering from a disease they

can’t quite diagnose. He’s paralyzed.” That Spitzer doesn’t say, or much

sound, sorry when he hears this reveals the depths to which Rosenhan’s study

is still hated in the field, even after 30 years. “That’s what you get,” he

says, “for conducting such an inquiry.” (p. 68)

I never said this. I would certainly not have gloated over Rosenhan’s


Spitzer says: “The new classification system of the DSM is stringent and

scientific.” (p. 80)

You can search all of the many papers I have written about DSM-III. I have

never said it was “scientific” or “stringent.” DSM-III facilitates

scientific study but it makes no sense to say that it is itself

“scientific.” “Stringent” is a word I never use and incorrectly

characterizes DSM-III.

“I’m telling you, with the new diagnostic system in place, Rosenhan’s

experiment could never happen today. It would never work. You would not be

admitted and in the ER they would diagnose you as deferred.”. “No,” repeats

Spitzer, “that experiment could never be successfully repeated. Not in this

day and age.” (p. 80)

I would never have referred to Rosenhan’s study as an “experiment” nor would

I talk about it being “successfully repeated.” Slater seems to be saying

that I claimed that now, with the DSM, psychiatrists would not diagnose a

pseudopatient as having a mental disorder. I would not make such a claim. If

there were no reason to suspect the pseudopatient of malingering, I guess

that most psychiatrists now would also make an incorrect diagnosis – just as

the psychiatrists in Rosenhan’s study did. It would not make sense for me to

have made a blanket prediction (twice!) that it could never happen now.

Since DSM-III was published in 1980, why would I have referred to it as “the

new diagnostic system?”

This is a serious matter. As a reputable publisher you have an obligation to

investigate this matter and take appropriate action to stop these damaging

misrepresentations by your author.

I am enjoying reading Slater’s book, Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir (Penguin

Books, 2000). I am up to the part where she describes how she went through a

period of her life when she was a compulsive liar.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Robert L. Spitzer, M.D.

Professor of Psychiatry

Elizabeth Loftus, the subject of another of Slater’s chapters, has also written to Slater’s publisher claiming misrepresentation:

University of California – Irvine


Elizabeth F. Loftus, Ph.D.

Distinguished Professor

Psychology & Social Behavior

Criminology, Law & Society

(949) 824-3285 (TEL)

(949) 824-3002 (FAX)

E mail: eloftus@uci.edu

February 21, 2004

Drake McFeely,

President, WW Norton & Company


500 Fifth Avenue

New York, N.Y. 10110


Dear Mr. McFeely,

I am writing to inform you about a number of factual errors and serious

misrepresentations in Lauren Slater’s book Opening Skinner’s Box: Great

Psychological Experiments of the Twentieth Century
. Her Chapter 8, entitled

“Lost in the Mall”, is about my research. The chapter is riddled with

errors – some minor but others extremely serious. Moreover, quotes are

attributed to me that I have never said, nor would ever say. Here is a

sampling of some of Slater’s errors:

p. 183: Slater quotes me as saying that Ted Bundy

“was wrongly identified in

a kidnapping charge.”

I have never said that Bundy was wrongly identified.

During his trial I pointed to some of the difficulties with the

identification. However, I never said he was wrongly identified.

p. 184: Slater quotes me as saying that 25% of the sample is a

“statistically significant minority.”

I have called this figure a

significant minority of the sample, but would never say something so

scientifically improper as to call it a “statistically significant


p. 184: I am also astounded that Slater would refer to my sometime co-author

and ex-husband, Professor Geoffrey Loftus, as “Gregg.” One would think that

someone who sets out to publicly explain and review a scientific literature

would be familiar with the names of its major contributors. Lest you think

that this sloppiness with names is an isolated case, let me quote from a

published review of Slater’s book in the London Mail on Sunday (February

15, 2004):

“It does not boost one’s confidence in her judgment, for instance, that

within the space of two lines she manages to spell the names of two famous

psychologists wrong: Thomas Szasz she spells ‘Sasz’ and R. D. Laing she

spells ‘Lang’. She also writes ‘per se’ as ‘per say’, which makes you wonder

if she knows what it means.”

p. 185: I did not claim that George Franklin’s daughter went to


new-age therapist who practiced all sorts of suggestion.”

I did not make

subjects in the lab think that red signs were yellow. I did not say, as to

Eileen Franklin’s memories,

“Untrue. All these details Eileen later read

about in newspaper reports.”

The details included in Eileen Franklin’s

account were in fact available in newspapers, television accounts, and other

public places. As to where she might have been exposed to them I cannot say,

since I never interviewed her.

p. 191: Slater has a long quote attributed to me that uses words that I

would never have said. It beings:

“The real facts are sometimes so subtle

as to defy language.”

– I’m not ever sure I can even figure out what this


p. 192: Slater refers to

“the woman who yelled ‘whore’ [at me] in the

airport a few years back”.

No woman has ever yelled “whore” at me in an


p. 192: Slater refers to

“the egged windows of her home, the yolks drying to

a crisp crust”

. No one has ever egged my home or its windows.

p. 193: Slater’s account of the Paul Ingram case is sloppy to the point of

leaving the reader with completely incorrect impressions. For example,

Slater writes of me

“when she heard about this case, and the kind of

questioning Ingram underwent. She got in touch with her friend and cult

expert Richard Ofshe, who trundled down to see Paul in his jail cell.”

Contrary to the impression conveyed by these words and those that follow,

namely that I had played some role in connecting Ofshe with Ingram, or in

Ingram’s subsequent decision to recant his confession, the truth of the

matter is that Ofshe had been working on the Ingram case and meeting with

Ingram in his jail cell, and Ingram had recanted his confession, years

before I had ever met Dr. Ofshe or had become involved with the Ingram case

at all. I first became interested in the case years after these events

occurred, when a television reporter who was suspicious about the case asked

me to help examine transcripts. Dr. Ofshe, and not I, deserves the sole

credit for his innovative work in this case.

p. 196: Slater makes a point of the fact that

“..by the end of the

interview, I know not only Loftus’s shoe size but her bra size too.”


reason Slater knows that is that she explicitly asked me for each of those

pieces of information. It makes me wonder what questions she asked of her

other interviewees.

p. 202: Slater claims that I slammed the phone down on her. I have no

recollection of ever slamming the phone down on anyone, let alone her. If

there was an accidental disconnection that occurred I would have explained

or apologized.

As you will become aware when you hear from other scientists and scholars,

there are additional serious factual and scholarly errors in other chapters

of Slater’s volume. Historically, W.W. Norton’s publications have been known

for matching the highest standards of factual accuracy of any scholarly

publisher, but I worry that lately these standards may have slipped. Could

you either confirm that my impression is accurate, or else let me know what

steps Norton will be taking to correct the factual error it has published in

Slater’s volume?


Elizabeth Loftus, Ph.D.

None of the Above

A popquiz; identify the source of the included quotes. Here’s the punchline — they are all empty platitudes from the 2000 Republican Party Platform. “In light of the behavior and policy choices of the Bush Administration in the nearly four years since the platform was written, most are laughable.” —Thomas Schaller, The Gadflyer

The Gadflyer is

a new progressive Internet magazine. As the name implies, The Gadflyer will be provocative, critical, and iconoclastic. It will cover politics and public affairs from a fresh perspective, offering journalism, analysis, and commentary from a new generation of writers. The Gadflyer will bring together the brightest young progressive voices to provide unique and compelling stories that can be found nowhere else.

The Gadflyer will be unabashedly progressive, but not doctrinaire; pugnacious, but not shrill; lively and entertaining, but substantive. [thanks, dennis]

Brand Loyalty

As ongoing FmH readers know, I try and follow the doings of the proto-fascist far right closely. A friend just let me know I had missed a piece in The New Yorker last month by David Grann called “The Brand”, which profiles the behind-bars doings of the Aryan Brotherhood. [You have seen what is apparently a minor league rendition of the Aryan Brotherhood’s prison activities if you have ever watched the HBO series Oz.] Here is, however, a New Yorker Online interview with Grann which gives the gist.

Prosecutors call the Aryan Brotherhood the most murderous criminal organization in the US. It has a system of selecting only the most cunning and vicious members to become “made” men, much like the Mafia. And most of its criminal activities remain unknown because they happen behind bars and most of their victims are themselves convicts without much of a constituency outside the prisons. The Brand controls an underground economy whose dimensions are remarkable in extent; Grann quotes an inmate’s estimate that 40% of the convicts at Leavenworth are shooting heroin, for instance. The money flow is hard to trace, for one thing because payments are made by money orders to designees on the outside. Communication about criminal activities uses sophisticated codes, invisible ink and rhyming schemes that strike me as similar to Cockney rhyming slang. Gang leaders are quite intelligent and well-read although self-educated, with philosophical tastes running to Sun Tzu and Nietzsche. There are many stories of prisoners’ abilities to charm women on the outside into remarkably loyal if somewhat exploitative relationships with them.

Grann reflects on how difficult something like The Brand is to stop, fluorishing as it does in maximum security where participants have nothing to lose and are already accustomed to the use of drastic means to achieve their ends. Grann seems to think these are clever people with a native intelligence that impresses him as much as it is frightening to contemplate. It is interesting to speculate on whether this parallel value system is something they develop once incarcerated or bring into prison with them from society; Grann observes that some convicted of less violent crimes such as drug dealing or bank robbery are transformed into the type of conscienceless killers in The Brand by prison socialization. He describes, seemingly sympathetically, the conviction of some in the penal system that their fearful power can only be broken by draconian measures including much more massive deprivations of their rights behind bars and the use of the death penalty against their leaders.

I really do think that the crucial question is the one above about the extent to which the mentality of The Brand is imported into the prison from the streets as opposed to being bred by the social structure behind bars. It certainly takes some critical mass and a self-sustaining process within the confines of a concentrated setting. Another matter of obvious concern is the relationship between the ostensible ideology of race hatred, that may first attract people to ultraright-wing groups such as what I understood the Aryan Brotherhood to be, and the unabashed thuggism of The Brand. One certainly has to wonder if the nation that already locks up a higher proportion of its adult male population than any other First World country is breeding this lawlessness, and whether there would be blowback from tightening the screws further. Why should we worry about these developments, happening as they do behind the impermeable barriers of maximum security? Will we be chastened only if the fiction that we can segregate the lawlessness effectively behind bars is given the lie by The Brand extending its reach to outside criminal activity with similar impunity?