By: David Bloomberg Re: 2 more articles on Frontline Back to the Dark Ages 04/07/95 SAN FR

---
Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

By: David Bloomberg Re: 2 more articles on Frontline Back to the Dark Ages 04/07/95 SAN FRANCISCO EXAMINER SOMETIMES I feel like taking my copies of Aristotle, Darwin, Melville and Cather and holing up in the mountains. It's getting weird down here in civilization. The American middle class, particularly in California, is going medieval. On one side we have the survivalists, dittoheads and tax resisters, solid middle-class Americans all, and a lot of them quite nice people if you're not from the IRS. They're digging in to fight the elitists who want to tax them to death to pay for welfare mothers' limousine services and federal masturbation-education programs. That's what the feds do with tax money, isn't it? Of course, these same anti-government warriors will fight to their last round of stockpiled ammunition to protect their federal veterans benefits and Social Security payments. They earned it, right? On the other side we have an army of solid middle-class people who seem like harmless neurotics, but are really inner children on the march. As shown in the PBS documentary "Divided Memories" and in The Examiner series by Stephanie Salter and Carol Ness two years ago, these inner children couldn't be more insidiously frightening if Stephen King had invented them. The inner children's crusade involves going to a "therapist" to unearth memories of the sexual molestation that surely occurred in the past to cause one's present unhappiness. Then the treatment may proceed to accusing one's parents of being the "perps" of the sexual assaults. "Perp," or "perpetrator," is the word used by these therapists (most of whom have fluffy credentials, if any at all). The client often eerily refers to "my perpetrator." Then there is the therapeutic admonition to "come from a place of truth" and the all-purpose New Age verb "empower." In Tuesday's PBS "Frontline" documentary, one of the therapists was shown unearthing a patient's buried memories of abuse in a former life. In a really embarrassing group-therapy session in Seattle (the northernmost outpost of California), a patient was shown acting out memories of being an ovum passing through a fallopian tube. These are unhappy people. Unfortunately, their therapists convince them the cure lies in accusing their aging parents of foul crimes. The only thing the therapist doesn't provide is a dunking stool. Somehow this "buried memories" hokum has become a rallying point among certain feminists. The idea seems to be to liberate women from their victimhood, but the result is a whining claque of professional victims. Professional victims never won revolutions, of course, but that's who gets on daytime talk shows. Just as the buried-memories crowd ascribes Satanic conspiracies to parents, their dittohead neighbors see evil conspiracy in the federal tax system. They may have a point there, but they also think they can get away with not paying income tax because it wasn't mentioned in the Constitution. Sorry, but driving drunk wasn't mentioned in the Constitution, either. A growing section of this crowd is dressed in camouflage fatigues and forming militias to prevent the feds from taking away their guns. The April issue of Soldier of Fortune has one of these smooth-faced, over-fed ragtag militias on its cover, pointing designer assault rifles to the right under the headline, "Modern Minutemen Aim to Keep America Free." These are the folks who talk about mysterious sightings of black helicopters, perhaps a preparation for the gun grab. Of course, every once in a while the feds do go to Idaho or Waco and kill some civilians with gun caches. Similarly, there are parents who have abused their children. Not every seemingly strange idea is wrong. But there are too many strange ideas around for them all to be right. There's an abuser in every branch of the family tree, and ATF agents ready to snatch guns in every forest. These two wings of medieval middle-class America probably account for less than a quarter of the population. That wouldn't be too bad, but most of the rest are watching the O.J. case, talking about Kato Kaelin and how O.J. may have been set up. The basic problem, besides brain failure, is that Americans are too rich and have too much time on their hands. A lot of people could use a job in a factory or a mine. You don't see poor people having buried memories, and if they have guns they use them as tools of their trade or for protection from real enemies. I don't know whether it'll be the inner children's crusade or the militia that tries to burn me at the stake. But at least one of them will. The modern medieval mind is unforgiving, whether it speaks the language of therapy or full automatic. Come and get me. I'll be dug in up the mountain reading Cato. That's Cato with a C. Repressed memory care a `war zone' 04/11/95 The San Diego Union-Tribune Ofra Bikel waded into the smoke, blood and anguish of a war that has been escalating for 10 years and emerged shaken and changed. "It's a senseless, dumb war. I started out with great respect for therapists -- I've been in therapy myself. But I tell you I've lost a lot of respect for them," said Bikel, a highly decorated documentary filmmaker. "These therapists don't take prisoners. There is no mercy at all. The sad irony, though, is that they are otherwise good people who think they're only trying to help." Bikel's excursion into the complex, frightening and fascinating psychological battlefield of repressed-memory therapy is chronicled in a four-hour "Frontline" documentary, "Divided Memories" (8 tonight on KPBS/Channel 15). The Israeli-born, New York-based filmmaker, whose acclaimed "Innocence Lost" pieces for "Frontline" recently explored a tragic Dale Akiki-type case in North Carolina, comes late to the repressed-memory debate. Many books, including those by San Diego psychologist Michael Yapko, UC Berkeley social-psychologist Richard Ofshe, and University of Washington memory expert Elizabeth Loftus, have already covered this ground. Scores of TV programs, including "60 Minutes," have tackled it as well. Yet all wars of profound historical importance rightly attract many correspondents who view the conflict from various vantages and time frames. Bikel, in her trademark understated storytelling style, probes deeply into the lives of unhappy women and the therapists they've turned to for help. She begins with the notorious George Franklin case in San Mateo in which a woman claimed to have unearthed a decades-old repressed memory of her father murdering a childhood friend. Her testimony put her father behind bars. (Franklin's 1990 conviction was recently overturned by an appeals judge, however, who cited egregious error by the trial judge. A new trial was ordered for Franklin, who is serving a life term in state prison.) Bikel then spends equal time with parents who say they are falsely accused of raping their daughters and the social scientists who warn of the devastation unleashed by the employment of unfounded theories regarding the workings of memory. "I tried to understand what's going on, how it all began, the culture in which this phenomenon has flourished." said Bikel, who pointed out that there is no doubt that child sexual abuse is a very real and widespread horror within our society. "I don't really care if there is such a thing as repressed memory or not -- after a while, I put that argument behind me." Despite the raging emotions on both sides and the intransigence of psychotherapists and their patients who believe in repressed memory, Bikel said, at least one universal conclusion emerged. "The smarter people on both sides agree that once someone comes in with a confabulated memory, there is no way to distinguish it from the truth," Bikel said. And yet the therapists she interviews, while stating they believe their patients, insist it is absolutely not their job to try to corroborate whether a father actually raped his daughter before accusing him of the crime. Feminist politics, Bikel said, shroud the proponents of repressed-memory therapy. "Outspoken feminists like Judith Herman (an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard extensively interviewed) will not give an inch. She feels that to concede anything is to revert 30 years to a patriarchic society," Bikel said. "You can't even talk to people like her." Bikel said her year spent examining the complex genesis of repressed-memory therapy taught her that it has far more to do with power than money. "Power and control -- the therapist says I will be your mother, you don't need your parents, your family," Bikel said. "I will show you how to live. "I think it's the good girls, the girls closest to mom, who get caught up in this. It's not the rebels. It's those who were always having to please mom and suddenly they can't. "But no one is going to give you sympathy for merely being neglected. It's not nearly as dramatic as sex abuse. Parents will pay attention to that; dad will pay attention." But in a "strange and terrible way," Bikel concedes, such therapy works. "You destroy your family, but it makes you feel better," she said. "You've got them waiting for your phone call. It gives you power, it gives you control."

---

E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank