Look out, kid
Look out, kid
They keep it all hid - Bob Dylan
I picked up a book yesterday I'll probably be referring to a fair bit in coming weeks: The Trickster and the Paranormal by George P Hansen. It's a learned study of the mediation the trickster plays between normal and paranormal experience. "Many peculiar aspects can be understood by recourse to the trickster," Hansen writes:
He is relevant to everything from random-number-generator parapsychology experiments to human sacrifice, from out-of-body experiences to ritual clowns eating excrement. Psi does not merely violate categories; rather subversion of categories is its essence. As such, there are limits as to what can be said about it within our typical logical frameworks.
The themes in this book include uncertainty, ambiguity, instability, the void, and the abyss. These are neither patternless, nor without power. Make no mistake, by using rational means this book endeavors to illuminate the irrational, and to demonstrate the severe limitations of logic and rationality. When the supernatural and irrational are banished from consciousness, they are not destroyed, rather, they become exceedingly dangerous.
Hansen stands in the tradition of Jacques Vallee and John Keel with respect to UFO phenomenon, which is eminently tricksterish. For instance, Hansen contends that "when an investigator studies something that can be intentionally deceitful...the usual paradigms of science are inadquate." This school of thought, which recognizes the continuity of contact phenomenon through the ages with entities variously described as fairies, demons, djinn and aliens, is largely at odds with both the skeptics masquerading as debunkers and the true believers in the hard fact of extraterrestrial contact. These two polarities dominate the discourse and present a false dichotomy: either the phenomenon is nothing but hoax and ignorance, or it details "'flesh and blood' humanoids traveling in 'nuts and bolts' flying saucers." Hansen admits that "ufologists are correct in seeing that associations with the supernatural taint their field and make it unattractive to establishment scientists. However, by supressing the paranormal aspects, and removing them from ufology's purview, they misunderstand the nature of the phenomenon and become vulnerable to them."
But Hansen covers much more than UFOs in his 500 pages. He devotes one chapter to conjurers (stage magicians, to distinguish them from practitioners of ritual magic), their often uneasy relationship with paranormal phenomenon, and how they themselves become moments of the trickster archetype.
When he turns to James "the Amazing" Randi, who has done more than anyone to claim the word "skepticism" for debunkers' reductionist, pre-quantum scientific method, Hansen mentions an episode from Randi's past with which I was unfamiliar:
Like many tricksters, some of Randi's antics have caused problems for himself. He was forced to resign from the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) because his accusations provoked lawsuits against hte Committee. One of the most publicized involved physicist Eldon Byrd, a friend of Uri Geller. On May 10, 1988 Randi made a presentation for the New York Area Skeptics in Manhattan. After his lecture, during the question and answer period, a member of the audience confronted him with a tape recording, which allegedly had Randi speaking in explicit sexual terms with young men (the recording was not played during the public meeting). I was present and watched as pandemonium almost broke out. Randi did not completely regain his composure. He accused Byrd of distributing the tape and went on to claim that Byrd was a child molester and that he was in prison. He made the same assertion in an interview with Twilight Zone Magazine. This was untrue, and in a jury trial he was found guilty of defaming Byrd.
Randi has never been married, but his sex life has received published comment regarding rumors of pederasty, including from a longtime friend James Moseley. Randi threatened lawsuits over them, but he never carried through.
James Moseley's newsletter, now titled Saucer Smear, is celebrating its 50th year. Moseley is an irritant to both debunkers and true believers, and likely closer to the truth than either camp. (In his personal position statement he writes that he regards aliens as "3 1/2-D, 4-D or 4 1/2-D entities [and] whatever this phenomenon is, it has been a permanent part of the earth's environment at least since the dawn of recorded history, and remains here now.") Mosely posted a link in his September, 2001 issue, which is no longer valid, to both a clip of the tape and its transcript. Moseley describes the tape as consiting of "several short telephone conversations, recorded many years ago from his own phone by the Amusing One himself. Randi appears to be soliciting sex from these several young men. The only dispute is in regard to the circumstances of the recording. We don't want to get back into all that, as Randi's lawyer is still permanently on our mailing list, ever since he tried to sue us several years ago." Two years earlier, Moseley recounted Randi's public explanation, that the tape had been made "under the direction of the police chief of Rumson, New Jersey, to entrap harassing obscene callers." Moseley adds that "many people with knowledge of the situation - including your Smear editor - believe Randi's explanation to be nonsense."
I haven't heard the tape and can make no claim for it. And while Hansen refers to "rumors of pederasty," the age of the "young men" is unknown, so even if they're as damning as Moseley alleges it may be no worse than simple solicitation. And if that were it, I probably wouldn't be writing this. But then I read how "honors and accolades are nothing new to James Randi, who devotes his life to exposing quacks and charlatans throughout the world," and note that it's the first line of Randi's biographical sketch for the advisory board of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation.
So the little, sordid story takes on a darker hue, and becomes another question mark dogging those who have crafted a pseudo-science with which to disappear allegations of sexual misconduct and survivors' stories of abuse.
In "False Memory Syndrome: A False Construct" Juliette Cutler Page writes:
Members of the FMSF are largely individuals who seek to defend themselves from accusations of sexual abuse of children. The FMSF does not attempt to determine whether these members are falsely accused or not. However, everyone who contacts their organization is included in their statistics of "falsely accused". There is little discrimination or skepticism, although members often criticize supporters of survivors of sexual abuse for believing the survivors.
The founding board of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation included a number of trickster characters. Such as CIA contractor Dr Martin Orne (an MK-ULTRA official told John Marks, author of The Search for the Manchurian Candidate, that "we could go to Orne anytime"), and Dr Ralph Underwager and his wife Hollida Wakefield who, in a 1993 interview with Paidika, a Dutch journal of paedophilia, said adult-child sexual relations were "God's will":
From the interview:
PAIDIKA: Is choosing paedophilia for you a responsible choice for the individuals?
RALPH UNDERWAGER: Certainly it is responsible. What I have been struck by as I have come to know more about and understand people who choose paedophilia is that they let themselves be too much defined by other people. That is usually an essentially negative definition. Paedophiles spend a lot of time and energy defending their choice. I don't think that a paedophile needs to do that. Paedophiles can boldly and courageously affirm what they choose. They can say that what they want is to find the best way to love. I am also a theologian and as a theologian, I believe it is God's will that there be closeness and intimacy, unity of the flesh, between people. A paedophile can say: "This closeness is possible for me within the choices that I've made."
Paedophiles are too defensive. They go around saying, "You people out there are saying that what I choose is bad, that it's no good. You're putting me in prison, you're doing all these terrible things to me. I have to define my love as being in some way or other illicit." What I think is that paedophiles can make the assertion that the pursuit of intimacy and love is what they choose. With boldness, they can say, "I believe this is in fact part of God's will." They have the right to make these statements for themselves as personal choices. Now whether or not they can persuade other people they are right is another matter (laughs).
Paedophiles need to become more positive and make the claim that paedophilia is an acceptable expression of God's will for love and unity among human beings.
We can't presume to tell them specific behaviors, but in terms of goals, certainly the goal is that the experience be positive, at the very least not negative, for their partner and partner's family. And nurturing. Even if it were a good relationship with the boy, if the boy was not harmed and perhaps even benefited, it it tore the family of the boy apart, that would be negative.
It would be nice if someone could get some kind of big research grant to do a longitudinal study of, let's say, a hundred twelve year old boys in relationships with loving paedophiles. Whoever was doing the study would have to follow that at five year intervals for twenty years. This is impossible in the U. S. right now. We're talking a long time in the future.
When the interview came to light in the US, Underwager resigned from the board. In a brief article, the FMSF newsletter announced that "Dr Underwager believes that parts of this interview could be misinterpreted to mean that on occasion he might be supportive of pedophilia when he definitely is not." Hollida Wakefield remained a board member.
A year before the Paidika interview, the February 29, 1992 issue of the FMSF newsletter included an article by co-founder Pamela Freyd entitled "How Do We Know We are Not Representing Paedophiles." Freyd just knew, because "we are a good-looking bunch of people, greying hair, well dressed, healthy, smiling; just about every person who has attended is someone you would surely find interesting and want to count as a friend."
The Freyd story is well know, and well-told by Page here. Dr Jennifer Freyd, then a psychologist at Stanford University, privately confronted her father Peter with recovered memories of abuse. Peter told people she was brain damaged. Mother Pamela enacted the nuclear option, publicly disparaging her daughter's private life and professional standing. "She also," writes Page, "in an interesting foreshadowing of future FMSF members’ positions on child abuse, ridiculed those who were opposed to child sexual abuse as 'politically correct' and therefore, perhaps, merely trendy."
Page adds that, "interestingly, Dr. Freyd’s memories were supported by other family members." In a letter addressed to WGBH and read by Gloria Steinem at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association in April, 1995, William Freyd - Peter's brother and Jennifer's uncle - wrote that
...there’s no doubt in my mind that there was severe abuse.... The false memory syndrome foundaton is a fraud designed to deny a reality that Peter and Pam have spent most of their lives trying to escape. There’s no such thing as a false memory syndrome. It is not, by any normal standard, a foundation. Neither Peter nor Pam have any significant mental health expertise.
Dr Jennifer Freyd, and Betrayal Trauma:
The Freyds remain the Foundation's executive directors. Their daughter is a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon and author of Trauma and Cognitive Science and Betrayal Trauma (subtitled "The Logic of Forgetting Childhood Abuse"). Jennifer Freyd defines Betrayal Trauma Theory as "the degree to which a negative event represents a betrayal by a trusted needed other will influence the way in which that event is processed and remembered."
"At times I am flabbergasted that my memory is considered ‘false’", says Jennifer, "and my alcoholic father’s memory is considered rational and sane."
I guess it's like False Memory Syndrome Foundation board member James Randi says: "People are suckers for false claims."