About this post
What follows was extracted from an 8700 word essay that I wrote yesterday, entitled: On Jane Hamsher And Our Fact-Free Media: It’s Not Just For Fox News Anymore. That too-lengthy screed tried to explain a number of ethical fails that explain Jane Hamsher's Twitter attacks on me, after I had criticized some of what I considered to be FDL's reckless and self-serving coverage of Pfc. Bradley Manning.
Unfortunately, more than a few important threads got overwhelmed and lost in all that sauce. While the context of her attacks do matter, so too do the serious distortions of facts, and various reads on those facts as they appear in the writings of Jane Hamsher, David M House, and especially Dr. Jeff Kaye.
So this post will focus on those threads, beginning with:
Has Jane Hamsher been forthright about ethical disclosures?
Just going over a month of FDL's stuff, my impression was that, like with the advocacy fund, things just get stated, but the reader is forced to probe the veracity of what is said themselves. Hamsher feels very little obligation to document anything that might call into question the truthfulness, analysis or urgency of things she uses to whip up emotional support for her ginned-up causes, or donations to her various funding drives.
Examples of this abound, but while looking over the history of FDL's Manning coverage, I came across this rather…
Egregious example of an ethics fail:
On January 21st, Jane Hamsher writes:
Dr. Jeff Kaye, who works with torture victims, wrote about the potential effects of Manning’s extended suicide watch/POI. He says that extended isolation is “a technique well-known to break down individuals.” But when the Brig Commander moved Manning to suicide risk/MAX custody, his conditions grew even more extreme…
Four days later, on January 25th, Jane also writes:
Dr. Jeffrey Kaye of Survivors International, a San Francisco-based torture victims center, describes the effect of severe solitary confinement: * Solitary confinement is an assault on the body and psyche of an individual…Over time, isolation produces a particular well-known syndrome which is akin to that of an organic brain disorder, or delirium….
Well that's some pretty serious stuff, right?
You betcha. And this Dr. Jeff Kaye guy sure sounds pretty knowledgeable about solitary confinement, torture, and related subjects, right? I mean, surely a prosperous blog like Firedoglake, making the claim that the U.S. Government and its United States Marine Corp. might be inhumanely abusing a detainee, would want to provide highly competent and unimpeachable sources before going so far out on a limb, right?
I mean, were it me, and I were looking to pull from the pool of experts to make my case that Manning was exhibiting signs of extreme abuse or torture resulting from what I was claiming to be "solitary confinement" (itself a lie.. I mean… "misnomer"), I might go with credentialed experts recognized by every major human rights and civil liberties group in America. Professional experts like:
Dr. Terry Kupers is a Board-certified psychiatrist, Institute Professor at The Wright Institute, a member of Human Rights Watch, and author of Prison Madness: The Mental Health Crisis Behind Bars and What We Must Do About It. He has served as an expert witness and monitor in class action litigation about conditions of confinement such as supermax isolation. He was named “Exemplary Psychiatrist” by NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) in 2005.
Dr. Stuart Grassian is a Board-certified psychiatrist and former faculty member of the Harvard Medical School. He has served as an expert witness in numerous lawsuits addressing solitary confinement, and his conclusions have been cited in a number of federal court decisions.
Dr. Philip Zimbardo has been on the faculty at Yale, New York University, Columbia University, and Stanford University, where he has been a professor since 1968. Though Zimbardo is the author of more than 400 professional publications and 50 books, he is perhaps most known for his 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment, which studied the physical and psychological effects of power and examined how otherwise “good” people can turn “evil” when placed in certain situations.
Each of these acclaimed experts have, in detail far too long to list here, professional, peer-reviewed journal articles and other scholarly activities and testimony all over the Internet, as found in countless academic bibliographies covering these very subjects of our interest, i.e., the nature and possible effects of extreme confinement on the human body, mind, and so forth.
But why have such acclaimed experts…
…who might not support the FDL thesis that Manning is being treated so inhumanely, or at least provide a far more serious and credible academic standing for the hyperbolic emotional claims that that they've been making for weeks, when you can have you own "in house" expert, such as Dr.Jeffrey Kaye?
Each time Jane or other FDL bloggers (and Greenwald) refer to Kaye, they always seem to fail to point out that he's not merely a long-standing FDL blogger, but also that he's made a career out of making sensational claims about prison life, torture, solitary confinement, etc. all over the Internet.
What do we know about Dr. Kaye, which might be relative to understanding his stature and credibility in helping Hamsher and Greenwald to portray Bradley Manning as a torture victim? I mean, after all, this "expert's" cred would be crucial, since much of their torture narrative relies on the second-hand anecdotal observations of another recent FDL blogger, the now storied "friend of friends of Bradley Manning," Mr. David M. House.
I will have more to say on Mr. House in a future post. You would think such a key figure would be thoroughly vetted by anyone using him as the basis of these sensational charges of human rights abuse. But again, that's the real media's job. I'm just an anonymous nobody that lives with his mom.
But for now, let's get back to…
Background on Dr. Jeffrey Kaye:
- He's a Ph.D who maintains a family therapy practice in San Francisco that, according to his resume, "worked with individuals and couples with psychological, emotional and relational problems for over twelve years."
- As a hobby or sideline, it appears that he's also spent much of the past decade focused on the Guantanamo detainees, and has blogged aggressively on related pet subjects for his own blog called "Invictus," as well as Alternet, Truthout.org, DailyKos/Valtin, Jason Leopold's ThePublicRecord, and finally, again as Valtin on AmericanTorture.com. (Do you get the sense yet that Dr. Kaye is fairly accomplished at finding claims of torture almost as frequently as he manages to create sensational blog posts about them?)
- On January 27th, 2008, he resigned from the American Psychological Association, because he was disgusted with their "complicity" with the U.S. Government's practice of torturing inmates. However, this has not stopped him from continuing to cite his membership on his resume, despite that page's last modified date being July 8th, 2009.
- He is a local member of Survivors International (SI) conducting psychological evaluations and offering psychotherapy for refugees applying for political asylum in the United States.
But more germane… than any of these other activities and interests, which generally seem to pigeonhole him as another Greenwald-esque, U.S. Government hating champion for truth and justice, Kaye is also a member of the Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR), a group dedicated to advocacy for a broad spectrum of war and human rights related issues.
At this point, it should come as no surprise—after all these cozy and incestuous relationships between FDL, Greenwald, Kaye, and his association with another always-angry-at-Obama crusader, Truthout's Jason Leopold*— who has openly battled with many over his own ethical problems—that PsySR, of which Dr. Kaye is an active member, is the very same organization that quite ceremoniously, and with great fanfare from Hamsher and FDL, wrote an "Open Letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates," strenuously objecting to Manning's method of confinement.
*Note: Leopold leapt into my Twitter fray with Hamsher, using a gratuitous snark that suggested I had some army of sock puppets who were defending me. (This is one of the most common—and lamest—allegations one hears on Twitter, and many other places on the web). It was meant to set off another round of conflagrations that he's contrived with me each and every time I make any critical statements about FDL or some of its notable bloggers. I didn't really have a theory about why he was taking up their defense until Jeff Kaye popped off to defend him to me. It was their combined mouthing-off in public that actually led me to the breadcrumbs about Kaye, and his connections to FDL and Leopold, that actually got this post off to the races.
Of course, as Hamsher knew, this letter would be seized on by sympathetic parties on the left as just one more potential embarrassment to the Obama administration (in their ongoing Obama tortures Manning narrative), so this grave sounding letter magically found its way—quick as a swiftboat—to that bastion of ethical purity, the DrudgeReport.
Yet despite this huge click bait posting at Drudge, only Raw Story, Tehran Times, and a few other papers or blogs seemed to have even picked it up. Possibly, I speculate, because they looked at the group, at Kaye, or the wording of the letter, and decided that it was pretty much as I have now somewhat famously alleged: just one more semi-scripted rehashing of the same Greenwald/Hamsher mistreatment/torture narrative. A narrative which was effectively copy-and-paste "it be torture" cud that was regurgitated by Amnesty International (AI), and others, as I'd pointed out to Greenwald on Twitter, thus igniting my previous blog post, and thus, also in part, to this one.
Anyone familiar with the history of AI, knows that they, like most similar groups, will rarely miss a chance to follow up an allegation of a reported human rights abuse, especially in a case as exciting and global as the incredible Wikileaks caper. Their mission statement demands it, and their credibility and funding depend upon it.
Now, to his credit, when Jeff Kaye cites the letter himself on FDL, he appears to have a more ethical bent than Hamsher ever does, when he does in fact disclose that:
"I have been a paying member of PsySR, though I have not participated in any organizational activities, nor am I a member of any of their committees."
Huzzah! At last, someone at FDL has pointed out that Dr. Kaye might have some connections worth pointing out to its readers! Even if it would mean very little without all the other dot's I have connected for readers herein, at least he tried. But further research into Dr. Kaye reveals still more questions. While his disclosure may have seemed technically accurate, Kaye doesn't appear to be quite as isolated from this organization as his disclaimer implies. For example, he recently is cited his being featured in the forthcoming documentary, Doctors of the Dark Side, which, according to it's website:
"exposes the scandal behind the torture scandal — how psychologists and physicians devised, supervised and covered up the torture of detainees in U.S. controlled military prisons.” Both PsySR and Jeffrey Kaye (with a link to his FDL profile) are both listed as resources to “learn more about Doctors and Torture” (on the site's tab labeled "On Doctors and Torture."
Ok, fine, two references in such near proximity might just be a coincidence, but also connected to this this film in which Kaye is featured? Dr.José Quiroga is the Medical Director of the Program for Victims of Torture, and serves on the Executive Committee and is Vice-President of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims in Denmark. He is also is or was, according to this source, the treasurer of Psychologists for Social Responsibility. Dr. Quiroga is shown on the Doctors of the Dark Side website being interviewed for the documentary.
Color me skeptical, but it hardly seems these two anti-torture advocates, both members of PsySR, just happened to be connected to this film independently of their association with PsySR. But I'm just an anonymous nobody who lives with his mom.
Kaye has been used to validate claims of Manning's "abuse."
…and for all or most of Hamsher's allegations that Manning's Maximum Custody Detention with Prevention of Injury (POI) status added, and at least one of Greenwald's similar charges. And it seems pretty clear that Kaye has been at best, a poorly disclosed member of Team Manning (he'd blogged with FDL for almost two years prior), and at worst, a very modestly-credentialed source posited as an expert witness who has been making internationally echoed charges based on little more than his opinion of what a complete lay person with an unknown history with the subject had reported in his "observations" of Bradley Manning.
This fail is additionally compounded by Dr. Kaye's own admission that he did so anecdotally, and without first-hand contact with the subject, nor having the benefit of any instruments such evaluations would require. He writes:
"…having spoken to David House, I have been considering Manning’s situation and the effects upon his likely mental and emotional status. While an accurate assessment of a person would mean direct access to them, and the application of psychometrically valid psychological instruments, experience allows me to make some general statements." (emphasis mine).
And thus, with this one disclaimer, placed just once in an opening blog paragraph, we clearly see that Ms Hamsher and Team Manning have whipped up all this hysteria about the Obama Administration and the United States Marine Corp. "torturing" Bradley Manning, all pretty much based on Dr. Kaye, FDL's house expert's entirely speculative account, offered without any empirical data whatever.
From this flimsy, overblown, and undocumented opinion from a family counselor who moonlights as an anti-torture advocate, and who has spent more than a decade chasing after torture claims of a far more serious nature than this Maximum Custody Detention case, we are now where we are. The Obama Administration gets constant Manning flak and distractingly redundant questions it must answer again and again, the media gets free content for their blogs which seem like a cover band singing country versions of anything Wikileaks, Salon and FDL get lots of web site traffic, David House gets on TV and invited to all those swank parties Jane Hamsher attends, and Bradley Manning may or may not get a few dollars for his defense fund.
In May, Pfc.Manning will probably be tried, convicted, and sent away for a long time (perhaps as long as 50 years). And I won't be surprised to learn, a decade or so from now, Jane, David, Glenn and the good doctor Kaye will have only visited Bradley once after his conviction. Probably to get his signature on a book proposal, movie deal, or licensing rights for the Bradley Manning's House of Pain video game series, with a 3D action figure tie-in.
Once again, let me state for the record that I have no opinion on Bradley Manning's guilt or innocence. I say he will probably be convicted only because most people accused of espionage acts often are. I also have no opinion on whether Maximum Custody detention is a form of abuse or torture, nor whether the military is correct when it says it is often required in espionage cases, even for people awaiting trial. I only know that it's been used for much of our history, in one form or another, and I wouldn't mind if it was aggressively researched and debated out in the open, and ultimately abolished. Toward that end, some of this attention will certainly be a good thing. But I also think it's simply convenient to use this allegation in the Manning case, alone, when tens of thousands are held in the same conditions, and the motive for doing so has much less to do with Manning, and far more to do with Wikileaks, and the people milking such a sensational story for all that it's worth. And it is that reality, a part of the very nature of today's mass media, and its role in controlling—or reshaping—our nation, that is my paramount concern.
If the above text compels you, I urge you to read the closing portion of the original post that followed it.
You can jump to it here. (Where you can also read Dr. Kaye's response in the comments—and my response to it).
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