Archive for February, 2018

“An uncritical review of an absurdly incomplete record”

February 9th, 2018 Comments off

Mark Pendergrast has written an entire book claiming that Jerry Sandusky might be innocent because, he asserts, all of the testimony was secretly based on therapeutically-induced “memories,” even though somehow that was unknown to everyone at trial. It is a fanciful theory, to say the least, but one that was advanced in a post-conviction hearing by the prominent psychology professor Elizabeth Loftus. The judge’s view of Loftus’s testimony is instructive. It neatly sums up the difference between a scientist, who considers all of the evidence, and a hired gun, who includes “only pieces of information tending to support” their pet theory, based on “an absurdly incomplete record.” 


The Dishonesty of Frederick Crews

February 5th, 2018 Comments off

Jerry Sandusky might be “the most hated man in America,” but he has found a dedicated friend in retired English professor Frederick Crews. Crews just reviewed Mark Pendergrast’s book of that title, which purports to cast doubt on the Sandusky case because some of the victims — gasp! — went to therapists. But Pendergrast never actually claims that Sandusky is innocent. He just impugns the therapists. But that did not deter Crews, however, from jumping to a conclusion that even Pendergrast was unwilling to make. “Who will apologize to Sandusky?” Crews wonders.

Crews’ desire to acquit Sandusky knows no bounds. Publishing his review in the house organ of The Skeptics Society, where there is apparently no meaningful editorial oversight, Crews tells his readers that Pendergrast is “an independent scholar and science writer who has long been concerned” with this issue. But Crews knows full well that Pendergrast’s “concern” began when both of his adult daughters cut him off. As Anne Rochelle put it, in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution: “His [1995] book seeks to prove his daughters and other ‘incest survivors’ have fallen prey to what skeptics call ‘false memory syndrome.’” Even her sympathetic piece allows that the book could well been seen “as a guilty man’s obsessive attempt to clear his name.”

But Crews doesn’t want his readers to know enough to consider that possibility. True skeptics should direct their skeptical powers at Crews, who misled his readers about the motivations of the author whose book he endorsed — ironically — without any apparent skepticism.


Harvey Weinstein and the False Memory Syndrome Foundation

February 4th, 2018 Comments off

Maureen Dowd’s devastating story about Uma Thurman’s experiences with Harvey Weinstein adds to the mountain of evidence against this serial predator. Clinging to the hope someone might still be fooled, Weinstein released photos today that his team says “demonstrate the strong relationship Mr. Weinstein and Ms. Thurman had over the years.” I started calling this “the home movie defense” years ago, when members of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation were providing images of smiling children as a would-be defense. Mark Pendergrast, for example, tried this ploy when he met with a reporter for the Atlanta Journal and Constitution in 1994.

By now, of course, we have all seen smiling pictures of gymnasts on the US Olympic Team. We have also seen smiling pictures of the Turpin family in Disneyland. And then there’s the images of Uma Thurman with Harvey Weinstein (although she doesn’t look very happy in this picture). It’s high time we recognize that the home movie defense is absurd. It makes as much sense as saying “just because I wasn’t abusive every moment of the day, I must never have been abusive.”

The Disgraceful Discounting of a Larry Nassar Victim

February 3rd, 2018 Comments off

Most people who watched the Larry Nassar sentencing hearing were moved by the courage and pain of his victims. Some of the women could not bear to appear in person. A court official read Annette M. Hill’s letter. Hill, a former MSU athlete, was particularly critical of the MSU administration because, as her letter said: “If they had only taken action on the first report, it would have saved me and all the other athletes standing before us today from a life of pain and agony.” Hill reported being suicidal.

In a disgraceful essay just posted online, freelance writer Mark Pendergrast declared that Hill probably has “illusory memories.”

Why? Because Ms. Hill said she had “suppressed” her memories of these events for years. Pendergrast has been on a mission to discredit any abuse claim that might be associated with repressed memory since his two adult daughters cut him off in the early 1990s. But Hill did not say that she recovered her memory in therapy. (Nor is there any evidence that was true of his daughters.) Hill just used the word “suppress.” Which is probably what many other victims of Nassar did. 

In this cultural moment when it seems that victims of sexual abuse might stop being discounted and dismissed unfairly, Mark Pendergrast reminds us that there are still people all too willing to dismiss victims without cause.