Re Nichols: Times the Experts were Wrong

In preparation for our review of The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters, I wanted to make list of “times the experts were wrong.” Professor Nichols, if you ever happen to read this, I hope it gives you some insight into where we, the common people, are coming from. If you don’t happen to read it, it still gives me a baseline before reading your book.

Nichols devotes a chapter to the subject–expert failures are, he claims, “rare but spectacular when they do happen, like plane crashes.” (I may be paraphrasing slightly.)

How often are the experts wrong? (And how would we measure that?)

For starters, we have to define what “experts” are. Nichols might define experts as, “anyone who has a PhD in a thing or has worked in that field for 10 years,” but the general layman is probably much laxer in his definitions.

Now, Nichols’s argument that “experts” are correct most of the time probably is correct, at least if we use a conservative definition of “expert”. We live in a society that is completely dependent on the collective expertise of thousands if not millions of people, and yet that society keeps running. For example, I do not know how to build a road, but road-building experts do, and our society has thousands of miles of functional roads. They’re not perfect, but they’re a huge improvement over dirt paths. I don’t know how to build a car, but car-building experts do, and so society is full of cars. From houses to skyscrapers, smartphones to weather satellites, electricity to plumbing: most of the time, these complicated systems get built and function perfectly well. Even airplanes, incredibly, don’t fall out of the sky most of the time (and according to Steven Pinker, they’re getting even better at it.)

But these seem like the kind of experts that most people don’t second-guess too often (“I think you should only put three wheels on the car–and make them titanium,”) nor is this the sort of questioning that I think Nichols is really concerned about. Rather, I think Nichols is concerned about people second-guessing experts like himself whose opinions bear not on easily observed, physical objects like cars and roads but on abstract policies like “What should our interest rates be?” or “Should we bomb Syria?”

We might distinguish here between practical experts employed by corporations, whose expertise must be “proven” via production of actual products that people actually use, and academic experts whose products are primarily ideas that people can’t touch, test, or interact with.

For ordinary people, though, we must include another form of experts: writers–of newspapers, magazines, TV programs, textbooks, even some well-respected bloggers. Most people don’t read academic journals nor policy papers. They read Cosmo and watch daytime talk shows, not because they “hate experts” but because this is the level of information they can understand.

In other words, most people probably think Cosmo’s “style expert” and Donald Trump are as much “experts” as Tom Nichols. Trump is a “business expert” who is so expert he not only has a big tower with his name on it, they even let him hire and fire people on TV! Has anyone ever trusted Nichols’s expertise enough to give him a TV show about it?

Trump Tower is something people can touch–the kind of expertise that people trust. Nichols’s expertise is the Soviet Union (now Russia) and how the US should approach the threat of nuclear war and deterrence–not things you can easily build, touch, and test.

Nichols’s idea of “experts” is probably different from the normal person’s idea of “experts.” Nichols probably uses metrics like “How long has this guy been in the field?” and “Which journals has he been published in?” while normal people use metrics like “Did CNN call him an expert?” and “Did I read it in a magazine?” (I have actually witnessed people citing margarine advertizements as “nutrition advice.”)

If anything, I suspect the difference between “normal people’s idea of expert” and “Nichols’s idea of experts” is part of the tension Nichols is feeling, as for the first time, ordinary people like me who would in the past have been limited largely to discussing the latest newspaper headlines with friends can now pull up any academic’s CV and critique it online. “The people,” having been trained on daytime TV and butter ads, can now critique foreign policy advisers…

Let’s sort “people who distrust experts” into three main categories:

  1. Informed dissenters: People who have read a lot on a particular topic and have good reason to believe the expert consensus is wrong, eg, someone involved in nutrition research who began sounding warning bells about the dangers of partially hydrogenated fats in the ’80s.
  2. General contrarians: Other people are wrong. Music has been downhill ever since the Beatles. The schools are failing because teachers are dumb. Evolution isn’t real. Contrarians like to disagree with others and sometimes they’re correct.
  3. Tinfoil hatters: CHEMTRAILS POISON YOU. The Tinfoil hatters don’t think other people are dumb; they think others are actively conspiring against them.

People can fall into more than one category–in fact, being a General Contrarian by nature probably makes it much easier to be an Informed Dissenter. Gregory Cochran, for example, probably falls into both categories. (Scott Alexander, by contrast, is an informed dissenter but not contrarian.)

Tinfoil hatters are deprecated, but even they are sometimes correct. If a Jew in 1930’s Germany had said, “Gee, I think those Germans have it out for us,” they’d have been correct. A white South African today who thinks the black South Africans have it out for them is probably also correct.

So the first question is whether more people actually distrust experts, or if the spread of the internet has caused Nichols to interact with more people who distrust experts. For example, far more people in the 80s were vocally opposed to the entire concept of “evolution” than are today, but they didn’t have the internet to post on. Nichols, a professor at the US Naval War College and the Harvard Extension School, probably doesn’t interact in real life with nearly as many people who are actively hostile to the entire edifice of modern science as the Kansas City School Board does, and thus he may have been surprised to finally encounter these people online.

But let’s get on with our point: a few cases where “the experts” have failed:

Part 1: Medicine and Doctors

Trans Fats

Artificially created trans (or partially hydrogenated) fats entered the American diet in large quantities in the 1950s. Soon nutrition experts, dieticians, healthcare philanthropists, and the federal government itself were all touting the trans fat mantra: trans fats like margarine or crisco were healthier and better for you than the animal fats like butter or lard traditionally used in cooking.

Unfortunately, the nutrition experts were wrong. Trans fats are deadly. According to a study published in 1993 by the Harvard School of Public Health, trans fats are probably responsible for about 100,000 deaths a year–or a million every decade. (And that’s not counting the people who had heart attacks and survived because of modern medical care.)

The first people to question the nutritional orthodoxy on trans fats (in any quantity) were probably the General Contrarians: “My grandparents ate lard and my parents ate lard and I grew up eating lard and we turned out just fine! We didn’t have ‘heart attacks’ back in the ’30s.” After a few informed dissenters started publishing studies questioning the nutritional orthodoxy, nutrition’s near-endless well of tinfoil hatters began promoting their findings (if any field is perfect for paranoia about poisons and contaminants, well, it’s food.)

And in this case, the tinfoil hatters were correct: corporations really were promoting the consumption of something they by then knew was killing people just because it made them money

Tobacco

If you’re old enough, you remember not only the days of Joe Camel, but also Camel’s ads heavily implying that doctors endorsed smoking. Dentists recommended Viceroys, the filtered cigarettes. Camels were supposed to “calm the nerves” and “aid the digestion.” Physicians recommended “mell-o-wells,” the “health cigar.” Some brands were even supposed to cure coughs and asthma.

Now, these weren’t endorsements from actual doctors–if anything, the desire to give cigarettes a healthy sheen was probably driven by the accumulating evidence that they weren’t healthy–but when my grandmother took up smoking, do you think she was reading medical journals? No, she trusted that nice doctor in that Camel ad.

Chesterfield, though, claimed that actual doctors had confirmed that their cigarettes had no adverse health effects:

In the 70s, the tobacco companies found doctors willing to testify not that tobacco was healthy, but that there was no proof–or not enough data–to accuse it of being unhealthy.

Even when called before Congress in the 90s, tobacco companies kept insisting their products weren’t damaging. If the CEO of Philip Morris isn’t an expert on cigarettes, I don’t know who is.

The CDC estimates that 480,000 Americans die due to cigarettes per year, making them one of our leading killers.

Freudianism, recovered memories, multiple personality disorder, and Satanic Daycares

In retrospect, Freudian Psychoanalysis is so absurd, it’s amazing it ever became a widely-believed, mainstream idea. And yet it was.

For example:

In the early 1890s, Freud used a form of treatment based on the one that Breuer had described to him, modified by what he called his “pressure technique” and his newly developed analytic technique of interpretation and reconstruction. According to Freud’s later accounts of this period, as a result of his use of this procedure most of his patients in the mid-1890s reported early childhood sexual abuse. He believed these stories, which he used as the basis for his seduction theory, but then he came to believe that they were fantasies. He explained these at first as having the function of “fending off” memories of infantile masturbation, but in later years he wrote that they represented Oedipal fantasies, stemming from innate drives that are sexual and destructive in nature.[121]

Another version of events focuses on Freud’s proposing that unconscious memories of infantile sexual abuse were at the root of the psychoneuroses in letters to Fliess in October 1895, before he reported that he had actually discovered such abuse among his patients.[122] In the first half of 1896, Freud published three papers, which led to his seduction theory, stating that he had uncovered, in all of his current patients, deeply repressed memories of sexual abuse in early childhood.[123] In these papers, Freud recorded that his patients were not consciously aware of these memories, and must therefore be present as unconscious memories if they were to result in hysterical symptoms or obsessional neurosis. The patients were subjected to considerable pressure to “reproduce” infantile sexual abuse “scenes” that Freud was convinced had been repressed into the unconscious.[124] Patients were generally unconvinced that their experiences of Freud’s clinical procedure indicated actual sexual abuse. He reported that even after a supposed “reproduction” of sexual scenes the patients assured him emphatically of their disbelief.[125]

To sum: Freud became convinced that patients had suffered sexual abuse.

The patients replied emphatically that they had not.

Freud made up a bunch of sexual abuse scenarios.

The patients insisted they remembered nothing of the sort.

Freud decided the memories must just be repressed.

Later, Freud decided the sexual abuse never actually happened, but that the repressed, inverted memories were of children masturbating to the thought of having sex with their parents.

So not only was Freud’s theory derived from nothing–directly contradicted by the patients he supposedly based it on–he took it a step further and actually denied the stories of patients who had been sexually abused as children.

Freud’s techniques may have been kinder than the psychology of the 1800s, which AFAIK involved locking insane people in asylums and stomping them to death, but there remains a cruel perversity to insisting that people have memories of horrible experiences they swear they don’t, and then turning around and saying that horrible things they clearly remember never happened.

Eventually Freudian psychoanalysis and its promise of “recovering repressed memories” morphed into the recovered traumatic memory movement of the 1980s, in which psychologists used hypnosis to convince patients they had been the victims of a vast world-wide Satanic conspiracy and that they had multiple, independent personalities that could only be accessed via hypnosis.

The satanic Daycare conspiracy hysteria resulted in the actual conviction and imprisonment of real people for crimes like riding broomsticks and sacrificing elephants, despite a total lack of local dead elephants. Judges, lawyers, juries, and prosecutors found the testimony of “expert” doctors and psychologists (and children) convincing enough to put people in prison for running an underground, global network of “Satanic Daycares” that were supposedly raping and killing children. Eventually the hysteria got so bad that the FBI got involved, investigated, and found a big fat nothing. No sacrificial altars. No secret basements full of Satanic paraphernalia and torture devices. No dead elephants or giraffes. No magic brooms. No dead infants.

Insurance companies began investigating the extremely expensive claims of psychologists treating women with “multiple personality disorder” (many of whom had so degenerated while in the psychologists care that they had gone from employed, competent people to hospitalized mental patients.) Amazingly, immediately after insurance companies decided the whole business was a scam and stopped paying for the treatment, the patients got better. Several doctors were sued for malpractice and MPD was removed from the official list of psychological conditions, the DSM-V. (It has been replaced with DID, or dissasociative disorder.)

I wrote about the whole sordid business at length in Satanic Daycares: the scandal that should have never been, Part Two, and Part Three.

(Ironically, people attack psychiatry’s use of medications like Prozac, but if anything, these are the most evidence-based parts of mental care. At least you can collect data on things like “Does Prozac work better than placebo for making people feel better?” unlike Freudian psychoanalysis, which contained so many levels of “repression” and “transference” that there was always a ready excuse for why it wasn’t working–or for why “the patient got worse” was actually exactly what was supposed to happen.)

All Doctors pre-1900

One of West Hunter’s frequent themes is just how bad pre-modern medicine was:

Between 1839 and 1847, the First Clinic at the Vienna General Hospital had 20,204 births and 1,989 maternal deaths. The Second Clinic, attended by midwives, had 17,791 birth and 691 maternal deaths. An MD’s care conferred an extra 6% chance of death. Births at home were even safer, with maternal mortality averaging about 0.5%

In that period, MDs caused about 1200 extra deaths. …

We know that wounded men in the Civil War had a better chance of surviving when they managed to hide from Army surgeons. Think how many people succumbed to bloodletting, over the centuries.

Ever wondered why Christian Scientists, who are otherwise quite pro-science, avoid doctors? It’s because their founder, Mary Baker Eddy (born in 1821) was often sick as a child. Her concerned parents dragged her to every doctor they could find, but poor Mary found that she got better when she stopped going to the doctors.

West Hunt gives a relevant description of pre-modern medicine:

Back in the good old days, Charles II, age 53, had a fit one Sunday evening, while fondling two of his mistresses.

Monday they bled him (cupping and scarifying) of eight ounces of blood. Followed by an antimony emetic, vitriol in peony water, purgative pills, and a clyster. Followed by another clyster after two hours. Then syrup of blackthorn, more antimony, and rock salt. Next, more laxatives, white hellebore root up the nostrils. Powdered cowslip flowers. More purgatives. Then Spanish Fly. They shaved his head and stuck blistering plasters all over it, plastered the soles of his feet with tar and pigeon-dung, then said good-night.

Tuesday. ten more ounces of blood, a gargle of elm in syrup of mallow, and a julep of black cherry, peony, crushed pearls, and white sugar candy.

Wednesday. Things looked good:: only senna pods infused in spring water, along with white wine and nutmeg.

Thursday. More fits. They gave him a spirituous draft made from the skull of a man who had died a violent death. Peruvian bark, repeatedly, interspersed with more human skull. Didn’t work.

Friday. The king was worse. He tells them not to let poor Nelly starve. They try the Oriental Bezoar Stone, and more bleeding. Dies at noon.

Homeopathy has a similar history: old medicines were so often poisonous that even if some of them worked, on average, you were probably better off eating sugar pills (which did nothing) than taking “real” medicines. But since people can’t market “pills with nothing in them,” homeopathy’s strange logic of “diluting medicine makes it stronger” was used to give the pills a veneer of doing something. (Freudian psychotherapy, the extent that it “helped” anyone, was probably similar. Not that the practitioner himself brought anything to the table, but the idea of “I am having treatment so I will get better” plus the opportunity to talk about your problems probably helped some people.)

Today, “alternative” medical treatments like homeopathy and “faith healing” are less effective than conventional medicine, but for most of the past 2,000 years or so, you’d have been better off distrusting the “experts” (ie doctors) than trusting them.

It was only in the 20th century that doctors (or researchers) developed enough technology like vaccines, antibiotics, the germ theory of disease, nutrition, insulin, traumatic care, etc., that doctors began saving more lives than they cost, but the business was still fraught:

Source (PDF)

Disclaimer: I have had the whole birth trifecta: natural birth without medication, vaginal birth with medication, and c-section. Natural birth was horrifically painful and left me traumatized. The c-section, while medically necessary, was almost as terrible. Recovery from natural (and medicated) birth was almost instant–within minutes I felt better; within days I was back on my feet and regaining mobility. The c-section left me in pain for a month, trying to nurse a new baby and care for my other children while on pain killers that made me feel awful and put me to sleep. Without the pain killers, I could barely sit up and get out of bed.

Medically necessary c-sections save lives, perhaps mine. I support them, but I do NOT support medically unnecessary c-sections.

The “international healthcare community” recommends a c-section rate of 10-15% (maybe 19%.) The US rate is over 30%. Half of our c-sections are unnecessary traumas inflicted on women.

In cases where c-sections are not medically necessary (low-risk pregnancies), c-sections carry more than triple the risk of maternal death (13 per 100,000 for c sections and 3.5 per 100,000 for vaginal births.) Medically necessary c-sections, of course, save more lives than they take.

Given: 1,258,581 c-sections in the US in 2016, if half of those were unnecessary, then I estimate 60 women per year died from unnecessary c-sections. Not the kind of death rate Semmelweis was fighting against when he tried to convince doctors they needed to wash their hands between dissecting corpses and delivering babies, (for his efforts he was branded “a guy who didn’t believe the wisdom of experts,” “crazy,” and was eventually put in an insane asylum and literally stomped to death by the guards. (Freudianism looks really good by comparison.)

C-sections have other effects besides just death: they are more expensive, can get infected, and delay recovery. (I’ve also seen data linking them to an increased chance of post-partum depression.) For women who want to have more children, a c-section increases the chances of problems during subsequent pregnancies and deliveries.

Why do we do so many c-sections? Because in the event of misfortune, a doctor is more likely to get sued if he didn’t do a c-section (“He could have done more to save the baby’s life but chose to ignore the signs of fetal distress!”) than if he does do one (“We tried everything we could to save mother and baby.”) Note that this is not what’s in the mother’s best interests, but in the doctor’s.

Although I am obviously not a fan of natural childbirth, (I favor epidurals,) I am sympathetic to the movement’s principle logic: avoiding unnecessary c-sections by avoiding the doctors who give them. These women are anti-experts, and I can’t exactly blame them.

At the intersection of the “natural food” and “natural birth” communities we find the anti-vaxers.

Now, I am unabashedly pro-vaccine (though I reserve the right to criticize any particular vaccine,) but I still understand where the anti-vax crew is coming from. If doctors were wrong about blood-letting, are wrong about many c-sections (or pushing them on unsuspecting women to protect their own bottom lines) and doctors were just plain wrong for decades about dangerous but lucrative artificial fats that they actively pushed people to eat, who’s to say they’re right about everything else? Maybe some of the other chemicals we’re being injected with are actually harmful.

We can point to (and I do) massive improvements in public health and life expectancies as a result of vaccinations, but (anti-vaxers counter) how do we know these outcomes weren’t caused by other things, like the development of water treatment systems and sewers that ensured people weren’t drinking fecal-contaminated water anymore?

(I am also pro-not drinking contaminated water.)

Like concerns about impurities in one’s food, concerns about vaccinations make a certain instinctual sense: it is kind of creepy to inject people (mostly infants) with a serum composed of, apparently, dead germs and “chemicals.” The idea that exposing yourself to germs will somehow make you healthier is counter-intuitive, and hypodermic needles are a well-publicized disease vector.

So even though I think anti-vaxers are wrong, I don’t think they’re completely irrational.

 

This is the end of Part 1. We’ll continue with Part 2 on Wed.

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Satanic Daycares, Pt. 3

So many people began reporting allegations that they or their children had been raped by a massive, underground Satanic conspiracy that the FBI got involved, investigated, and found a big fat nothing:

Kenneth Lanning, an FBI expert in the investigation of child sexual abuse,[151] has stated that pseudo-satanism may exist but there is “little or no evidence for … large-scale baby breeding, human sacrifice, and organized satanic conspiracies”.[46]

Lanning produced a monograph in 1994 on SRA aimed at child protection authorities, which contained his opinion that despite hundreds of investigations no corroboration of SRA had been found. Following this report, several convictions based on SRA allegations were overturned and the defendants released.[54]

Satanists, rapists, pedophiles, murderers, and even people who claim that Satan told them to murder people all do, indeed, exist. But an organized conspiracy lurking under the local daycare does not.

Scale

In all, Wikipedia lists 19 major Satanic Daycare Scandals and mentions “over 100” cases total in the US; and 18 Ritual Satanic Abuse allegations, plus the “West Memphis Three” case.* In 1987, Geraldo Rivera claimed on national TV that, “Estimates are that there are over one million Satanists in [the United States and they are] linked in a highly organized, secretive network.”[37]

A 1996 survey investigating 12,000 cases of alleged SRA found that most of the victims were diagnosed with MPD (or the new acronym, DID) and/or PTSD. Also:

In a 1994 survey of more than 11,000 psychiatric and police workers throughout the US, conducted for the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, researchers investigated approximately 12,000 accusations of group cult sexual abuse [note: I bet these two surveys used the same database] based on satanic ritual. The survey found no substantiated reports of well-organized satanic rings of people who sexually abuse children, but did find incidents in which the ritualistic aspects were secondary to the abuse and were used to intimidate victims.[92] (bold mine) (Wikipedia)

Another study found that:

“Of a sample of 29 patients who presented with SRA, 22 were diagnosed with dissociative disorders including DID. The authors noted that 58% of the SRA claims appeared in the years following the Geraldo Rivera special on SRA and a further 34% following a workshop on SRA presented in the area; in only two patients were the memories elicited without the use of “questionable therapeutic practices for memory retrieval.”[114]

Many of these cases started with genuine accusations of abuse or molestation–the “West Memphis Three” case began with the discovery of the bodies of three murdered children, and I do not know whether the three teens convicted of the murder were innocent or not. What all of these cases have in common is that after the initial, perhaps true accusation was brought by or on behalf of the children, the adults–relatives, police, social workers, etc.–inflicted their own agendas on the cases, creating a massive, non-existent Satanic conspiracy. It was this misconduct by the police and social workers that resulted in so many convictions (including the West Memphis Three) to be overturned.

It is better to convict genuine criminals of the crimes they actually committed than to concoct a web of lies and then have the conviction overturned.

Prominent people involved:

Janet Reno, Country Walk Babysitting Service case: Janet Reno was promoted to Attorney General of the United States.

Fells Acre Day Care Center Preschool Trial: “Current Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, the chief prosecutor of both of the Amirault cases, responded to the articles with statements that “the children testified to being photographed and molested by acts that included penetration by objects” and “the implication … that the children’s allegations of abuse were tainted by improper interviewing is groundless and not true.”[19]”

From the Wall Street Journal, 2010: “Attorney General Martha Coakley—who had proven so dedicated a representative of the system that had brought the Amirault family to ruin, and who had fought so relentlessly to preserve their case—has recently expressed her view of this episode. Questioned about the Amiraults in the course of her current race for the U.S. Senate, she told reporters of her firm belief that the evidence against the Amiraults was “formidable” and that she was entirely convinced “those children were abused at day care center by the three defendants.”  ”

One of the accusations brought in this case was that a 4 year old had been anally raped with a butcher knife which left no traces and did no damage.

Susan J. Kelly, Fells Acre. “As a pediatric nurse in the 1980s, Kelley interviewed many of the children involved in the Fells Acres Day Care Center sexual abuse case in Malden, Massachusetts.[6] Kelley’s interview techniques in that case later came under criticism from members of the media [6] and were called “improper” and “biased” by a Massachusetts appellate judge[7] after video tapes of her questioning of the children were played in court during the appeal of one of the defendants.[8][9]

“Kelley has specialized in the field of child abuse, since 1979 and has appeared as a featured expert on child abuse on national programs including the Today Show, NBC Evening News and CBS Morning News.[1]

The entire MA Supreme Judicial Court in 1993 and 1995.

Prosecutor Daniel Ford, Bernard Baran case: “Just a few years after Baran’s conviction, Ford was appointed to the Massachusetts Superior Court, where he presides over criminal cases. He has also served on a committee that determines state rules for criminal procedure. As Silverglate points out, not only has Ford never been disciplined, he has never been publicly investigated, nor has the state considered the reforms that could cut down on future wrongful convictions.”

DA Gerard Downing: “former Berkshire County district attorney Gerard Downing, had a heart attack and died while shoveling snow. For years, Baran’s appellate attorneys had been asking Downing to turn over the interview tapes. He said he couldn’t find them. (He isn’t the only prosecutor who has had problems locating tapes of interviews with children that produced abuse charges, but later proved exculpatory.) After Downing died, Capeless found and turned over the tapes in a matter of months. Had Downing not had a heart attack, Baran could well have died in prison.” (source)

I did not find the names of the folks involved in the Wee Care Nursery School trial, but you can read the transcripts of the police’s awful, unethical interviews with the children here.

Prosecutor H.P. Williams, Little Rascals day care sexual abuse trial, 1989: Lost a primary election in 1994, then joined Twiford Law Firm, where he appears to be still employed.

Faith Chapel Church ritual abuse case: “Dale Akiki was born with Noonan syndrome, a rare genetic disorder which left him with a concave chest, club feet, drooping eyelids and ears.[1] … The campaign against him was initiated by Jack and Mary Goodall, the former being the CEO of Jack in the Box, who stated that they found his physical appearance, coupled with his working contact with the children of the church in his capacity as a volunteer, “disturbing”. … The cases against him included no physical evidence, but allegations of satanic ritual abuse including testimony that he killed a giraffe and an elephant in front of the children, drank human blood in satanic rituals, and had abducted the children away from the church despite being unable to drive.[6]” …

“Prosecutor Mary Avery was the founder of the San Diego Child Abuse Prevention Foundation, to which Goodall was the largest financial contributor. She was brought in to prosecute at the Goodall’s insistence after experienced child abuse prosecutors Harry Elias and Sally Penso found no grounds to charge Akiki with any crimes due to the coercive investigation and suggestivity used by parents and therapists in the case.”

In other words, Goodall bought himself a prosecutor to put a deformed man in prison because he thought the guy looked icky. In this case, though, the jury didn’t buy it, perhaps because this was late in the game and the public was beginning to wise up.

Avery resigned from law in 1999. “A few months after the verdict, … Avery was re-assigned to less responsible duties. She subsequently resigned from the California State Bar.” (source)

Jack Goodall continued working for Jack in the Box until 2001, and is (was?) owner of the San Diego Padres.

Wenatchee child abuse prosecutions: “In 1995, forty-three adults were arrested on 29,726 charges of child sex abuse, involving 60 children … Eighteen went to prison. Child witnesses in the investigation, mostly from 9 to 13 years old, were often taken from their families and placed in foster care. Many later claimed that they were subjected to hours of frightening grilling and told that if they didn’t believe they had been sexually abused, then they were either “in denial”, lying, or had suppressed the memory of the abuse. … While several children recanted their testimony prior to trial, these recantations were ignored: “It’s well known that children are telling the truth when they say they’ve been abused. But [they] are usually lying when they deny it.” Wenatchee Child Protective Services (CPS) supervisor Tim Abbey stated.[8]

As of 2013, a Timothy Abbey was still listed as working for the Spokane, WA, DCFS. [PDF]

But the main player in the Wenatchee case was Lieutenant Robert Perez, who, frankly, sounds unhinged. Perez retired from police work in 1998 and is now deceased.

I’m going to stop here; you can read more over at Wikipedia.

As the Washington Post notes about the Satanic Daycare Scandal, “Most of those convictions have since been overturned, but for the most part, the law enforcement officials responsible for them were not only never disciplined, many were reelected or moved on to higher office, sometimes because of the notoriety they gained from those cases, which tended to be high-profile affairs.”

A prosecutor who wins cases gets promoted or at least keeps their job. A prosecutor who loses cases loses their job. An honest prosecutor, therefore, is more likely to get fired than one who suppresses evidence of the defendant’s guilt or is otherwise willing to act unethically. (The Wikipedia notes that the prosecutors in these cases learned pretty quickly to destroy the evidence–notes, recordings–of how they’d coerced the children into making accusations.)

Even if most prosecutors are truly well-intentioned, such a system rewards the unethical and punishes the honest.

There are many cases where a well-meaning person might make an honest mistake. The police failure to properly gather forensic evidence in the “West Memphis Three” murders, for example, may have been a mistake.

The Ritual Satanic Daycare scandals, however, involves cases of such mind-bogglingly absurd proportions that no such benefit of the doubt can be extended. If these people genuinely did not realize they were coercing children into lying in order to put innocent people in prison, then they are not mentally fit to manage their own affairs and should have been put into an institution for the intellectually disabled. If they are not mentally unfit, then they are monsters.

Some of them have been sued; none, as far as I know, has been imprisoned. The majority, however, faced no consequences at all for all of the lives they destroyed.

Back on the mental health front

In 1984, Connie, the psychotherapist behind Sybil, founded the International Society for the Study of Multiple Personality and Dissociation.

By the time of the ISSMP&D’s annual conference in 1987, speakers were lecturing about the, “Treatment of victims of ritual abuse,” and “The Satanic Cult in Rural Mid-America.” The ISSMP&D’s big new idea, that cults were breaking children’s minds into pieces, was invoked by people who had joined Connie in founding the organization and the multiple personality movement. More than six hundred therapists were attending ISSMP&D’s conferences to learn how to ferret ritual abuse memories from their patients. (source)

(Hypnotize them and inject them with massive quantities of drugs. Then when they start hallucinating and screaming, claim you’ve recovered their “memories.”)

The 1980 DSM described Multiple Personality (the “disorder” would be appended later) as “extremely rare”:

Before Sybil, fewer then 200 people over the past two centuries had been identified in Western medical literature with conditions resembling MPD. By 1984, only 4 years after the condition had been listed in the DSM, an ISSMP&D leader was suggesting that 25,000 Americans suffered from it. Another leader estimated that 3 percent of the population had MPD–over seven million people.

The massive increase in cases due in part to relaxed standards for diagnosis–alters were no longer required to be “complex”–and in part due to obvious idiocy:

It became common for MPD sufferers to possess scores, even hundreds, of alters (one was reputed to have 4,500.) Not all were human; some weren’t even alive. Patients reported gorillas and lobsters, as well as unicorns, angels, and–if the alters were immobile and voiceless–trees. Supernatural-sounding claim sprang up. A person with MPD, it was said, could have one alter with blue eyes and another with brown eyes. Such a person could be diabetic but have a personality whose insulin levels were normal. Even blood type could change. …

Gloria Steinem publishd an inspirational book for women, Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem, which lauded multiple personalities as a gift. MPD women, Steinem wrote, could learn many foreign languages. Not only that, they could “have two or even three menstrual cycles in the same body.”

OW. That feeling you are having is like an ice cream headache, only due to stupidity instead of cold.

(How the fuck does anyone respect this woman? Or take any of this shit seriously?)

MPD is no longer in the DSM (though a new diagnosis, Dissociative Identity Disorder, is) due to the profession deciding to strategically distance itself from the diagnosis after a bunch of shrinks got sued for malpractice:

In 1996, a church in Missouri agreed to pay $1 million to a woman who said that under the guidance of a church counselor, she came to believe that her father had raped her, got her pregnant and performed a coat-hanger abortion — when in fact, she was still a virgin and her father had had a vasectomy. And in August, a jury awarded $5.8 million to a woman in Houston who said her psychotherapist had implanted memories of murder, satanism and cannibalism.

The Schwiderskis sued two dozen people for $35 million after Kathryn Schwiderski, seeking help for depression, was accused by her therapist of being a member of a Satanic cult who had participated in cannibalism, human sacrifice, kidnapping, murder, torture, etc. Child Protective Services investigated charges Kathryn had harmed her children (and found nothing,) and she was institutionalized in a ward full of other people her shrink had also diagnosed with MPD due to Satanism. The state later closed that institution for abusing the patients, censoring their communication with the outside world, and refusing to discharge patients. (source)

Also about this time, insurance companies got wise and stopped paying for multi-year (or multi-decade) hospitalizations for depressed people, which really yanked the plug on the whole thing.

A few people (and fictional characters) still claim to have DID. Obviously this is bullshit; aside from a very few truly psychotic people, MPD (and DID) have never existed. The ISSMP&D is still in business (though it changed its name to ISSTD,) diagnosing patients and willfully ignoring the fact that all available evidence points to MPD and recovered memories being an enormous crock of shit inflicted upon patients by unethical shrinks.

In a sane world, the Satanic Daycare Scandal would have never happened.

Satanic Daycare Scandal, part 2

Effects

Now, you might think that people would be cautious about accepting absurd claims coming from actually diagnosed, mentally-ill people receiving psychiatric treatment, but personal experience suggests that they don’t. Combine this with the feminist claim that you must always believe and support the victim and never question their claims, and you have the ingredients for thousands of destroyed lives.

Sybil launched a good two decades of psychiatrists using hypnosis to convince anxious or depressed women that they actually have a dozen or two personalities as a result of repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse or other trauma. With the publication of “Michelle Remembers,” these patients became instant sources of repressed evidence of a world-wide Satanic child-torturing conspiracy. For example, as the NY Times reports:

While undergoing psychiatric therapy at a Chicago hospital from 1986 to 1992, Patricia Burgus says, she was convinced by doctors that she had memories of being part of a satanic cult, being sexually abused by numerous men and abusing her own two sons.

She says that hypnosis and other treatments caused her to believe she remembered cannibalizing people, so much so that her husband brought in a hamburger from a family picnic and therapists agreed to test the meat to see if it was human. …

Mrs. Burgus, 41, said in an interview that she was referred to the hospitals by therapists in her hometown of Des Moines who had been treating her for what she describes as a severe post-partum depression. She said she received a diagnosis of multiple personality disorder and was treated with various medications, hypnosis and was occasionally kept in leather restraints during six years of treatment, two and a half years as an inpatient. She said her children were hospitalized because doctors believed her disorder might be genetic.

As it turns out, if you make enough claims about an on-going, massive child-torture and rape conspiracy, sooner or later the police get involved.

In 1980, Becky McCuan, a little girl living in Kern County, California, was actually molested by her grandfather. Her mother’s step-mother, Mary Ann Barbour, became so distressed by her conviction that Becky’s parents weren’t doing enough to protect her that she had a psychotic breakdown and ended up in the mental hospital. [Note: the quotes in this section come from the Religious Tolerance link, but see also “A Modern Witch Hunt,” “Kern Case that Brought 1,000 year Sentences Thrown Out,” and the relevant Wikipdia article. I recommend reading more about the case just to get the full flavor of how horribly it was handled.]

The step-grandmother made numerous bizarre accusations against the parents, leading social workers to put the two step-grandchildren into her custody and begin investigating the parents for being part of a “sex-ring.”

After being repeatedly questioned by the police over many months, the children claimed that they had been:

1. Hung from ceiling hooks and beaten with belts

2. Rented to strangers in motels and forced to act in “kiddy-porn” movies,

3. Abused by a sex ring involving their grandparents, their parents, their father’s brothers, friends of their parents, (Scott and Brenda Kniffen,) the social worker who did the inspection, a co-worker of their father, and two unnamed child welfare workers,

4. And they had witnessed infants murdered and buried in a Satanic ritual.

They led the FBI to the place where the bodies were supposed to be buried, but not only were not corpses found, there wasn’t even evidence that the dirt had been disturbed (ie, dug up and filled back in.) (Archaeologists are amazingly good at figuring out if dirt has been disturbed, which is why we can tell where thousand-year old ditches and post-holes were buried. The police, we may assume, are similarly skilled at finding hastily dug graves.)

In fact, no evidence was ever found to support the childrens’ allegations, and the children themselves told their parents’ lawyers that they only accused their uncle because their grandmother told them to.

The police then brought in Scott and Brenda Kniffen’s kids; in order to get the accusations they wanted, the children:

were repeatedly and suggestively interrogated. The interviewers would describe a sex act and then ask the child to confirm or deny that it happened. When questioned separately, each was told (falsely) that their brother had disclosed abuse by both the parents and the rest of the sex-ring. Brian and Brandon claim that they were yelled at and terrorized by the interrogators. They were told that they could go home again if they testified about the abuse. …

Brian Kniffen later recanted, and said that he had been told what to say at the trial and had been promised that he could be with his parents again if he cooperated. His brother Brandon has also recanted. They have stated that the abuse never occurred and that they were led and coerced to testify as they did.

Accounts of the case claim that the police were just too ignorant to realize that you can get a small child to confess to just about anything this way. I don’t believe this for an instant, both because these kinds of interrogations were illegal at the time for adults, and because, the memories small children, no matter how honest, are not all that reliable even under good circumstances.

The McCuan’s and Kniffens were convicted and given combined sentences of over 1,000 years in prison.

From here, the number of cases ballooned–eventually 60 children were interrogated, resulting in convictions against 39 people (out of 80 accused) for ritual Satanic abuse and murder, including the sacrifices of 29 infants. All of the cases involved the same social workers, child abuse coordinators, deputy sheriffs and district attorney, Ed Jagels.

Eventually the children also began accusing the social workers, deputy sheriffs, and deputy district attorneys of ritual Satanic abuse, at which point the criminal cases all suddenly, mysteriously stopped.

Actually, the cases probably stopped because Attorney General of California started investigating the DA after the FBI couldn’t find the dead babies Becky and her sister claimed they had seen sacrificed and buried, and the DA was forced to admit that the whole infant sacrifice story was fake.

Eventually–20 years later–pretty much the entire case was overturned due to gross police misconduct. All but one of the people who hadn’t already died in prison or completed their sentences have been released.

(Showing that even a stopped clock can be right twice a day, one of the guys they imprisoned was a previously-convicted child molester, and after being released, he was re-arrested for molesting three children. Had the prosecution not attempted to charge 79 other, probably totally innocent people of ritual Satanic abuse at the same time, he probably would not have been released.)

 

The District Attorney who prosecuted all of these cases, Ed Jagels, once sent a man to prison for 25 years for stealing <$1 worth of donuts. Despite the courts overturning 25 of his convictions due to gross mishandling of the case and admissions that much of the “evidence” was made up, he remained adamant that the convictions were correct.

For his “hard on crime” and anti-child abuse stances, the people of Kern County re-elected him 6 times, until he retired in 2006.

The assistant DA, Andrew Gindes, died in 2010 after a “long illness.” Brian Kniffen, now grown up, said of Gindes, “He would slam books down, yell when we wouldn’t cooperated. He was demanding and scared us and wouldn’t take no for an answer…I wish I could talk to him now and ask him… why, why did he do that to me?”

Gindes worked in law for 30 years, though I have yet to figure out how much of that was after the trials.

After four of the now-grown children recanted their testimony and told the court that they’d been forced to lie 20 years before, a third prosecutor, Lisa Green, told the judge, “These kids were telling the truth back then and they are not for whatever reason today.”

Lisa Green is still employed as a Kern County District Attorney:

Lisa Green, a native of Buffalo, New York, graduated from Fresno State University in 1980 and attended the University of San Diego Law School, graduating in 1983. … She joined the Kern County District Attorney’s Office as a law clerk in 1983 and became a Deputy District Attorney upon passing the Bar exam in 1983. She has prosecuted over 110 felony trials, the majority of those cases involving homicides and sexual assaults. Mrs. Green was promoted to Supervising Deputy District Attorney in 2001 and in 2009 she was promoted to Chief Deputy District Attorney. In 2010 she was elected District Attorney, the first woman in Kern County to hold that position.

 

The McMartin Preschool Trial, 1984-1990, was one of the longest and most expensive–$15 million–criminal trials in US history. Prosecuted by Ira Reiner, who also prosecuted actual serial murderer and avowed Satanist Ricardo (Richard) Ramirez.

While we are here, I’m just going to shoe-horn in the case of Adolfo Constanzo, the Florida-born son of a Cuban immigrant who became a Voodoo cult leader after apprenticing under a Miami-based Palo Sorcerer. Palo, from the Congo basin, involves ritual human sacrifice, and Constanzo was no exception. He moved to Mexico and murdered at least 20 people for his magic rituals (the local drug cartels used his “potions” to aid their operations.) Eventually the police caught up with him and he committed suicide.

Note that it is actually really hard to keep ritual murders a secret for very long–sooner or later, the cops find the bodies and you end up on Wikipedia. The idea of a massive, secret, multi-generational conspiracy torturing and murdering children that no one noticed until 1980 is simply absurd.

Highlights of the McMartin case: After a preschooler had trouble pooping, his mom accused daycare workers of sodomy, bestiality, drilling “a child under the arms” and flying through the air. The mom was soon hospitalized for acute, paranoid schizophrenia, and died of chronic alcoholism before the criminal trial actually began.

Pazder and Michelle were flown in to meet with parents Several hundred children were coercively interviewed, resulting in bizarre accusations that they’d been abused by Chuck Norris and “flushed down toilets” to secret rooms under the preschool where the ritual abuse happened.

No one was ever convicted, and all charges were eventually dropped.

One of the prosecutors, Glenn Stevens, nobly left the case when he realized it was all dreamed up by a mentally ill woman. Stevens was forced to resign from the DA’s office when the state attorney general and the Los Angeles city attorney began considering criminal charges against him for pointing out their massive mis-handling of the case.

Thus the wages of honesty.

The guilty parties in this case were “Jane Hoag, the detective who investigated the complaints; Kee MacFarlane, the social worker who interviewed the children; Robert Philibosian, the district attorney; and Wayne Satz, the television reporter who first reported the case, and Lael Rubin, the prosecutor.[1]”

Some more information on them, hopefully correct. Scroll down.

Philibosian is still “at council” at the law firm of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton.[3]

MacFarlane specialized in getting children to pretend they’d been sexually abused in order to convince them that they’d been been raped. According to Wikipedia, she testified before Congress that, “she believed there was an organized, nationwide conspiracy of individuals and “orthodox satanic groups” sexually abusing children, although she never presented evidence of who any of the individuals are nor proof of any orthodox satanic groups.[12]”

As of 2000, Lael Rubin was still working for the LA county DA’s office.

It’s getting late, so To Be Continued…