Welcome Robert Jay Lifton, and Host Dr. Jeffrey Kaye

[As a courtesy to our guests, please keep comments to the book.  Please take other conversations to a previous thread. - bev]

Witness to an Extreme Century: A Memoir

Jeff Kaye, Host:

We are extraordinarily fortunate to converse today with psychiatrist and psychohistorical researcher Robert Jay Lifton. His new memoir, written after 60 years of professional life, is an amazingly fascinating and entertaining book. Dr. Lifton speaks in his persona of a gifted, intelligent, and rational observer and thinker, a self-described disciple of the Enlightenment and a humanist approach to understanding.

Yet Dr. Lifton was more than a mere witness to history. As his book describes it, his experience working with traumatized returning Vietnam veterans transformed the researcher into an activist as well, and he has continued making outspoken criticisms of U.S. military and interrogation/torture policies ever since. In 2004, he was one of the first medical professionals to speak out against the participation of doctors, nurses, and medics in torture by U.S. forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

Dr. Lifton’s witnessing was always of an active sort, however, seeking to use understanding and intellect to bring light to some of the darkest episodes in recent history. To visit his work is to descend along with him into the most hellish and evil places in modern times, and his work acts like a kind of Virgilian torch for use by we Dante-like pilgrims, visiting hell to discover our own humanity, no matter what uncomfortable truths might await us.

In his book, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of “Brainwashing” in China, one of the most important works of psychology in the 20th century, Dr. Lifton interviews the victims of a massive “thought reform” campaign by the victorious Chinese Communist Party, undertaken in the aftermath of a terrible civil war, and under the blows of the Cold War and Korean War. In the process of this encounter with totalism – the manipulation of mind and personality by preying upon the fear of death, the power of group pressures and interpersonal pressures to produce false confessions, the internal splitting or dissociative properties of the mind, and the inescapable drama of individual identity formation – Dr. Lifton’s analysis made a tremendous contribution to our understanding of extreme psychological states, and extreme modalities of social and historical experience.

There were other such confrontations and discoveries, as Dr. Lifton’s personal intellectual and career journey led him to study another totalistic assault, albeit one imposed by distant technological, yet terrible means, in his study on the victims of Hiroshima, later published as Death in Life: Survivors of Hiroshima. Years later, he wrote, along with Greg Mitchell, Hiroshima in America, an amazing book about U.S. societal reaction to the destruction of the atomic bomb, the psychology of the men who decided to use it, and the collective denial that has captured our society ever since, while the insane destructive fantasy of total nuclear annihilation haunts us still.

Dr. Lifton’s memoir is organized around these fateful encounters, and the works that emerged from them, from the “thought reform” and Hiroshima work, to his massive 1986 study, The Nazi Doctors – about which he speaks at length about the difficult personal toll in undertaking such a work – and his encounters with the traumatized Vietnam veterans, and opposition to the Vietnam War in general (Home from the War: Learning from the Vietnam Veterans).

Dr. Lifton’s work has continued to enlighten in an activist way, from his work on the apocalyptic Japanese cult, Aum Shrinrikyo (Destroying the World to Save It: Aum Shinrikyo, Apocalyptic Violence, and the New Global Terrorism) to the extreme ideology of world domination that arose in U.S. ruling circles following 9/11 (Superpower Syndrome). But his new memoir, while it takes the reader on a journey into the dark territory surrounding “an extreme century” is also a moving personal account of personal development, and of those he encountered along the way.

Accompanied by his supportive and accomplished wife, BJ, and sometimes his children, Dr. Lifton had the good luck to encounter and collaborate with some of the best minds of the last century. Those who seek anecdote about the famous will not be disappointed, as Dr. Lifton describes his relationship with his great mentor, the famous psychoanalyst and theoretician Erik Erikson, his meetings with anthropologist Margaret Mead, his confrontation with Nazi doctor and famed ethologist, Nobel Prize winner Konrad Lorenz, his friendship with novelists Elie Wiesel and Norman Mailer, among other fascinating people who populate his new work.

Dr. Lifton did not remain in an ivory tower. As he explains in his memoir, stirred by the protests of the 1960s, he became an activist, and was twice arrested for civil disobedience against the Vietnam War. At his Wellfleet, Massachusetts home, he initiated a series of yearly meetings, beginning in 1966, and still continuing today, drawing together an idiosyncratic collection of academics, clinicians, artists and thinkers to discuss what he first characterized as psychohistory, but apparently grew larger into wide-ranging discussions about psychology, history, art, current events, all animated by Lifton’s own personality, rooted in inquiry, honesty, and good humor mixed with intellectual rigor.

As a balance to the dark powers of totalism, which draw upon the deepest roots of human psychological vulnerability and threaten the very planet in its death-defying search for unreachable immortality and omnipotence, Dr. Lifton counterposes a vision of a protean self, of symbolic immortality through embracing the connectivity of all humans throughout time. Proteanism concerns “the self’s capacity to change and transform itself,” its creative capacities, and its many cultural variations.

At a large reception during a conference, a graduate student I didn’t know confronted me in a New York/sixties manner so brash as to be almost charming: “Hey, Lifton, I tried to be a protean man and it doesn’t work.” Again I smiled, this time perhaps with a little more uneasiness. I told him that proteanism was not an absolute – one didn’t have to be changing or reconfiguring one’s psyche every day – but rather a tendency of the self. That was true enough, but I knew it to be only the beginning of an answer. (Witness to an Extreme Century, p. 369)

Modern history has presented us with the gravest questions and dilemmas, but Robert Jay Lifton has presented us with the beginning of some answers, and for this we can be grateful. With that, let’s welcome to Firedoglake, Dr. Robert Jay Lifton.

149 Responses to “FDL Book Salon Welcomes Robert Jay Lifton, Witness to an Extreme Century: A Memoir”

BevW June 12th, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Dr. Lifton, Welcome to the Lake.

Jeff, Thank you for Hosting today’s Book Salon.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Hi Bev, and thanks to FDL for the great Book Salon series.

Dr. Lifton, thanks so much for giving of your time to discuss your work with readers of Firedoglake. Could you tell us if the project of writing your memoirs turned out the way you thought it would? Was there anything surprising you discovered in undertaking this project?

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 2:03 pm

There are always surprises. Just writing about myself rather than others is a whole new experience. Writing the memoir recovering portions of my life I had seemed to lose. So in giving one’s life a narrative, one also reclaims it.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 2:05 pm

In my own researches, I discovered a U.S. Navy directive on human subject protections from 2006 that specifically named the Undersecretary of the Navy as the “approval authority” for research done upon prisoners, as well as “Severe or unusual intrusions, either physical or psychological, on human subjects (such as consciousness-altering drugs or mind-control techniques)” [emphasis added].” (Link) I wonder, given your own researches into “thought reform”, and knowledge of U.S. CIA programs on so-called brainwashing, if you could comment on the idea that the U.S. government still is researching mind-control techniques?

eCAHNomics June 12th, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Dr. Lifton,

Do you have an FBI file? Have you seen it?

Greg Mitchell June 12th, 2011 at 2:07 pm

I may be somewhat biased, as co-author with Robert on two books in the 1990s (Hiroshima and capital punishment) and numerous articles, but the new memoir is quite remarkable, relevant for today, and, on top of that, a real “page turner”!

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 2:09 pm
In response to Greg Mitchell @ 6

I certainly second that, Greg.

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 2:10 pm

Unfortunately various American intelligence groups–especially the CIA–became drawn to thought reform or brainwashing and have over the years conducted crude and dangerous experiments, that have sometimes resulted in deaths. There is something about the promised psychological power of “brainwashing,” that can be irresistable to certain groups. We still have to combat such tendencies in our own country and our own government.

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 2:11 pm

Of course I have one and have seen the parts of it sent to me, most of it represents an incredible waste of time on the part of FBI investigators.

eCAHNomics June 12th, 2011 at 2:11 pm

How close is the current U.S. to some of the totalitarian situations you have studied?

BevW June 12th, 2011 at 2:13 pm

As a technical note, there is a “Reply” button in the lower right hand of each comment. Pressing the “Reply” will pre-fill the commenter name and number you are replying to and helps for everyone in following the conversation.

(Note: If you’ve had to refresh your browser, Reply may not work correctly unless you wait for the page to complete loading)

eCAHNomics June 12th, 2011 at 2:13 pm

No accounting for the multitudinous ways the FBI figures out to waste U.S. taxpayers money.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 2:13 pm
In response to Greg Mitchell @ 6

Greg, I know this is Robert’s Salon, but I wonder if you (or Dr. Lifton) have seen any changes re U.S. response or attitudes to Hiroshima or the nuclear weapons issue since the book Hiroshima in America was published? Has the Obama administration disappointed you on this issue?

Jane Hamsher June 12th, 2011 at 2:15 pm

Welcome Dr. Lifton, thanks for being here and for all you do.

Can you tell me what your impression is about public opinion regarding torture, and if it has shifted over the past 20 or 30 years? Americans appear much more tolerant these days than I seem to recall, but maybe I’m just in contact with more morally bankrupt people than I used to be.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 2:16 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 12

I should add there is a wonderful if frightening vignette in Dr. Lifton’s memoir that recounts an encounter with the FBI, who go around visiting guests who came to a fund-raiser Dr. Lifton sponsored for the antiwar “Harrisburg Eight” back in the early 1970s. Finally they called him directly. You can read the book to find out the whole thing ;-)

The memoir is, among other things, an interesting trip back to what it was like for antiwar activists in those days.

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 2:16 pm

We’re still a democracy but have at times swerved in the direction of each of the destructive tendencies I describe–whether in trying to copy techniques of Chinese thought reform, or maintaining a nuclear arsenal, and at times seeming willing to use it, participating post-Vietnam counterinsurgency wars such as Iraq and Afghanistan, or indulging in torture in which American doctors are implicated. But we can still confront and speak out against these transgressions.

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 2:16 pm
In response to BevW @ 11

OK

June 12th, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Dr. Lifton – as regards brainwashing, I’m interested in your opinion of manipulation of whole populaces in general.

While there is direct propaganda, societal manipulation on a direct level, do you have opinions about what propaganda organs do NOT talk about, i.e. ignoring situations a whole populace sees, but is never addressed by such propaganda.

For example the AIDS epidemic in the early ’80s. Barely a word from those in charge, while the effects were evident. There are other examples, like income inequality today.

Adams June 12th, 2011 at 2:17 pm

Dr. Lifton & Jeff Kaye: Thanks for your work on issues that some of us find too horrifying to confront. And for giving voice to the pain and disfiguration of both the tortured and the torturer.

“…”brainwashing,” that can be irresistable to certain groups.” What do you believe are the common characteristics of the members of “certain groups?”

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Building on Jane’s question @14…

A recent report by doctors affiliated with Physicians for Human Rights noted that medical personnel were not reporting signs of abuse and torture at Guantanamo. Dr. Lifton, do you see parallels with the findings you made when researching the Nazi Doctors? Is that too strong a comparison?

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 2:19 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 18

Yes, there is a form of trying to manipulate and control what is called truth. It doesn’t have a systematic set of procedures like thought reform, but it can be a form of mind control and has to be combated. Whistleblowers can be of enormous help.

T Allen June 12th, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Dr. Lifton and Jeff Kaye,

Thank you for your rigorous scholarship. Could you please explain whether torture in a ticking timebomb scenario is 1) justifiable and 2) effective? Sam Harris has argued forcefully that there are instances where torture is morally correct, whereas Glenn Greenwald has argued, persuasively in my opinion, that torture is categorically unjustifiable.

Thanks again.

DWBartoo June 12th, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Has the apparent ease with which certain psychologists have joined with the intentional “misuse” of “psychology”, surprised you?

Great Book Salon, btw, to all involved, Robert Lifton, Jeff Kaye, Bev, my appreciation to each of you.

DW

Greg Mitchell June 12th, 2011 at 2:21 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 13

I’ll let Robert answer that but re: lesson of Hiroshima, my main concern has always been that to “make exceptions” for “never using nuclear weapons,” as most Americans have in regard to the two uses in 1945, is to pave the way for “making exceptions” again.

Siun June 12th, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Dr Lifton< I am in the middle of reading your memoir and completely fascinated but also every so grateful for your willingness to share your personal story of this work. Death in Life has been one of the most influential books of my life – informing both my political work but also my own coming to terms with several critical events. Thank you so much for providing us with knowledge *and* with such humane nurturance for living in our world.

eCAHNomics June 12th, 2011 at 2:23 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 15

I figured there would be plenty of that kind of material.

For some reason, I’ve been in the way of seeing those days mentioned quite a few times of late. Book-TV, internet, etc. Prolly bc those of that generation are doing memoirs & also being written about, as well as the diff bet how much better they were treated in those days than now.

As you or someone else put it on FDL recently, everything that Nixon did that was a crime back then, is routine for the USG now.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 2:24 pm
In response to Adams @ 19

Hi Adams, While I hope Dr. Lifton gets around to your question, at quite a discounted prices at Amazon, you might be interested in reading his 2003 book, “Superpower Syndrome: America’s Apocalyptic Confrontation with the World”.

I think Dr. Lifton is referring to people in power who in an effort to staunch their own death anxiety, seek omnipotent control over others, as a means to control reality, and therefore even death itself, via the control of others’ lives. But the whole issue is more complex than that, and when you read Lifton’s work, you can see that there is a dynamic between the those who would “brainwash” and those subjected to “thought reform” that is fascinating. The roots of all this, of course, lie deeply in aspects of human nature, and how they manifest in certain unique historical situations.

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 2:24 pm
In response to Jane Hamsher @ 14

To a scandolous degree torture has become more acceptable to Americans. One of my greatest disappointments in the obama administration in its refusal to confront, and in fact prevention of others confronting, our own participation in torture. I still believe that we have to do that in order to make claim of any moral credibility.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 2:28 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 23

I think this question goes well w/mine @20. But you might wish to take a look at Dr. Lifton’s article on this subject as well, from 2004 at New England Journal of Medicine, linked in blog posting above.

T Allen June 12th, 2011 at 2:28 pm

I agree. Sadly, consequentialist torture defenders (albeit only in corner cases) like Sam Harris give the torturers rhetorical ammunition.

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 2:28 pm
In response to T Allen @ 22

I believe torture is unjustifiable, the ticking time bomb argument tends to create an illusory situation as a way of justifying torture. In my own work on confession extraction in thought reform,, I found that the strongest motivation of the person being tortured is to find a way to satisfy his torturer which is often done by stating falsehoods. In general torture is ineffective.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 2:29 pm
In response to Greg Mitchell @ 24

I agree. That’s an important argument, and akin to the “ticking bomb” scenario mentioned by other commenters in relation to the pro-torture argument, imo.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Dr. Lifton, your memoir was finished before the U.S. operation that killed Osama bin Laden. What can you say about the meaning of that event, and the emotional reaction to it by many Americans?

mzchief June 12th, 2011 at 2:31 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 27

Jeff and Robert, for the purposes of this discussion, what would you say might be good working definitions of “brain-washing” in contrast to “thought reform”?

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 2:32 pm
In response to Greg Mitchell @ 24

About Hiroshima and nuclear weapons and Obama, I would say that Americans have gradually become a little more receptive to Hiroshima truths. Obama did something quite fine in calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons, and has brought thoughtful inquiry to the question. But unfortunately he has failed to follow through with specific steps in that crucial direction. We should support his commitment and pressure him toward action.

papau June 12th, 2011 at 2:32 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 15

Lol – but sadly

Yes – in the early 60′s the CIA/FBI was into ridiculous investigations (those seen helping me load a U-Haul in 1965 were investigated and noted in my file) – indeed there was an incredible effort to dig deeper into those of my friends that were gay, despite their knowing I was not born gay and had not “experimented” :-)

Back then (60′s and 70′s) the CIA ran ESP experiments – is that still going on?

On an irony note – as Obama shuts down communication rights in the US, Hillary has expanded the 2006/7 MIT program in Afghanistan to get around the Taliban shutting down cell phone/internet communication, and is sending out “internet in the box” folks to countries where dissidents face the government shutting down communication to the outside world as they harm their citizens http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/12/world/12internet.html?_r=1 Thank God Obama is too afraid of Hillary to stop her efforts.

As to Protean man, I am not understanding how that is just not a rejection of behavioral absolutes (doing things like my father) and a call to embrace change. “Symbolic immortality through embracing the connectivity of all humans throughout time” sounds like acknowledging that the heights we achieved today are because we stand on the shoulders of all that came before.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 2:33 pm
In response to mzchief @ 34

I’ll wait and see if Dr. Lifton responds, and then add what I can, or perhaps I’ll have a different take… we’ll see.

I’d note that when Dr. Lifton one time used the word Brainwashing in a book (the book on Thought Reform), it was placed in quotes.

Brainwashing was a popularized term, originally coined by a CIA-linked journalist.

eCAHNomics June 12th, 2011 at 2:34 pm

The ticking time bomb situation actually guarantees the exactly opposite outcome that Dershowitz posits. If something bad is really going to happen soon, it is very much in the interrogees interest to lie (under just the right amount of torture to make it seem like he’s not), so that the interrogaters chase down false leads, giving time for the disaster to happen.

June 12th, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Dr. Lifton – pardon my expletive, but it seems to me there is some breaking point for an individual, and in some cases society/groups, where they get to that “broken space” and say “Aww, fuck it. I hurt too much.” and they then acquiesce to what the Power Over Them is demanding.

What IS that space? And how is it achieved? And your opinions regarding resilience about that “space” too, if you please.

eCAHNomics June 12th, 2011 at 2:35 pm

That’s only one of the many examples when O said exactly the opposite to what he’s doing. Apparently he’s fostering a new generation of nukes.

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 2:36 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 33

I would have preferred that Bin Laden had been captured and legally tried. I do note condemn the project of finding him and in fact believe that we should not have invaded either Iraq or Afghanistan but should have attempted a police action against him from the beginning. And of course the American reaction has been troublingly triumphalist, something on the order of a sporting event, taking any human life should be seen as a grave event. And in the end, terrorism is best combatted by wise and humane national policies and political actions, rather than by killing anyone.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 2:39 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 38

That’s right. There are also two other things that happen with torture occurs. If harsh enough, it can produce an organic brain syndrome in which the person confabulates, that is, they say something, anything, possibly even somewhat related, possibly totally fanciful, and they believe what they are saying.

Also, person may be trained to give a false story upon harsh interrogation, and I believe they are, i.e., a story that can be partially checked out and partially verified, but is a misdirection or old info. That enables the government or unit from which the person comes to make the necessary changes.

But so many captured are innocent of helpful info, what you get is garbage, false confessions produced under duress, as Dr. Lifton explains.

papau June 12th, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Amen to those thoughts. But we are in the minority – seems there would have been “administrative difficulties” if Osama had been brought back alive.

tuezday June 12th, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Dr. Lifton, I recall an Organizational Behavior lecture in college regarding a person’s level of eduction correlating directly with their susceptibility to brainwashing. This was in regards to the Vietcong preferring POWs with a high school level of education, as they were the most easily brainwashed.

I often wonder if there isn’t a direct correlation to the sorry state of education in this country and the ability by the government to brainwash society as a whole. Do you have any thoughts on this?

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 2:40 pm
In response to mzchief @ 34

Brainwashing became the popular term for thought reform. Unfortunately it has no clear-cut meaning and is used for everything from extreme torture to mild efforts at persuasion. Thought reform is a specific process used by the Chinese to coercively change people and their beliefs. It involves such things as confession, criticsim and self-criticsim, and overall process of “re-education.” I’ve tried to explain it in my work.

DWBartoo June 12th, 2011 at 2:40 pm

I agree with your disappointment, completely, but wonder if there is, any longer, any genuine concern FOR moral credibility?

American “leadership” has, I suspeculate, decided that force is sufficient, generally, and I say that looking at the behavior of the Justice Dept. across a rather wide spectrum of “activity” … when you factor in the use of armed drones, the “everywhere” battlefield, and the complete and total lack any apparent concern, on the part of that “leadership”, for the public’s economic well-being, as individuals in need of a decent job or as a collective, whose taxes are used for wars the public neither wants nor cares to understand beyond the hegemony of “oil” and to bail out financial criminals who openly “own” the “representative” power supposed to “belong” to “the people”.

When those things are coupled to the intentionally denied degradation and destruction of the environment, often for mere “profit”, it is rather difficult to imagine any concern for moral rectitude, unless it comes from “the people” …

Who seem confused, abused, and befuddled.

DW

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 2:41 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 39

I don’t think anyone is saying that torture can’t ever produce “true” confessions. But it is an imprecise way of doing so.

The problem of “deception” under standard or coercive interrogation haunts the Intelligence Community, and you or anyone can make a pretty dollar feeding that paranoia and fear with studies of and “answers” to the problem of deception from those being interrogated.

eCAHNomics June 12th, 2011 at 2:43 pm
In response to tuezday @ 44

Heh.

I think of the Poison Ivy League school graduates as the most susceptible to U.S. brain washing. Look at how they all stick together in a cult.

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 2:43 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 39

Of course anyone can be broken and there’s no single moment or timeframe one can describe. But we’ve come to recognize that peoples highly submissive behavior in the hands of totalistic groups, usually stems from their need to hold on to their lives by placating and satisfying their captors.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Excellent response. I believe it was the ever-tempting opportunity to make money and careers, that “undue influence” of the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower warned the nation, that steered vengeance and fear into war and invasion, and ultimately torture and assassination.

mzchief June 12th, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Thank you.

June 12th, 2011 at 2:45 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 47

I’m not talking about the veracity of confessions, I’m asking about that broken state of humanity that produces “acquiescence” regardless of true or false testimony in terms of torture.

And acquiescence in terms of what we see in populations, as well as the resilience we see. Like Egypt.

Something stops people, and something else keeps them going.
(Sorry I’m a bit inarticulate today.)

tuezday June 12th, 2011 at 2:46 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 48

I know there are a whole lot of jokes in that question, but I wonder if there isn’t a wholesale program to make everyone equally dumb.

Greg Mitchell June 12th, 2011 at 2:46 pm

My only disappointment with the great Lifton book was that he did not mention Tom Niedenfeuer even once.

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 2:46 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 46

I know how you feel but there are still forces in this country concerned with our commitment to human behavior and the whole issue of torture is crucial both in its immediate immorality and its symbolization of ultimate brutality and evil. We all need to keep struggling against it.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 2:46 pm
In response to DWBartoo @ 46

Who seem confused, abused, and befuddled.

I thought you were going to say “bewitched, bothered, and bewildered” ;-)

But I agree with you, but I also hear Dr. Lifton saying, for instance, that the country’s view on Hiroshima, for instance, has changed in recent years.

Which leads me to wonder — if you see this question, Dr. Lifton — to what extent generational perspective colors our views on the age we live in?

eCAHNomics June 12th, 2011 at 2:47 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 47

I have read many more stories of U.S. agents being mislead by false info (Curveball comes to mind, also Chalabi, to name 2) than the reverse. Are U.S. agents particularly badly trained, or are they just looking for any reinforcement of their false hypotheses?

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 2:49 pm
In response to Kelly Canfield @ 52

Yes. There certainly is a breaking point for individuals. With societies, it’s more complex. If we could finely delineate the latter, we would have a science capable of greater intervention, or more scarily, control.

The psychological breaking point in torture is something I have written about, I believe Dr. Lifton has explored in his books, and certainly is a subject that has been discussed/examined by many. You might want to read the CIA’s Kubark manual on torture to see what they say about it themselves.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 2:51 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 57

The good intel U.S. agent produce often goes unnoticed, or is suppressed. A signal version of the latter will be the subject of a major article that I will have out tomorrow, written with Jason Leopold. But now’s not the time to go into that more.

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 2:51 pm
In response to Adams @ 19

Yes, you raise an important issue and nobody has a full answer for understanding the moment in which people draw upon strength to resist. There has to be a combination of suffering and hope for change. It’s significant that an American scholar, Gene Sharp, played an important role in the middle eastern revolutions by disseminating principles and practices of non-violent resistance.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 2:52 pm
In response to Greg Mitchell @ 54

The baseball pitcher?

Siun June 12th, 2011 at 2:53 pm

I hope that folks will both read this memoir – but also read Dr. Lifton’s earlier works which have so much to teach us.

When I worked in the anti-nuclear movement, particularly with Trident Nein, we considered his Hiroshima work as the essential source for our work and it certainly shaped our activism, and emboldened us to speak more.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 2:55 pm
In response to Siun @ 62

I don’t know how many people are aware of this, but when Dr. Lifton went to Hiroshima to interview atomic bomb survivors in 1962, no one had ever attempted a systematic investigation of them, even 17 years after that terrible event.

I didn’t know you had been an anti-nuclear activist, Siun. How much one learns at these Book Salons!

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 2:55 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 56

There’s always an important generational reaction to history but we can’t depend on it to solve all of our problems. Yet there can be something new and fresh about a younger generation’s view of the world, that can include more critical approaches to nuclear weapons and sometimes to war-making in general (as in the case of the Vietnam War), we have to support those aspects of generational change that are life-enhancing.

eCAHNomics June 12th, 2011 at 2:56 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 59

I’ll look for that article.

mafr June 12th, 2011 at 2:56 pm
In response to Siun @ 62

I will. This book should be very interesting.

Lorraine Watkins June 12th, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Mr Lifton. I am in despair I have other commitments this evening. You books have been sacred text for me for years in studying the Holocaust and allied topics, as a physician in particular the role of the doctors. I look forward to reading this blog this evening and also the book. Folks, this man is the real deal.

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 2:58 pm
In response to Siun @ 62

That’s fine to hear and perhaps illustrates the importance of combining scholarship and activism. These are often considered antithetical but I believe that they require each other.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 2:58 pm

…we have to support those aspects of generational change that are life-enhancing.

I think this is a crucial point, and as someone heading into the second half of my middle age, one I will try to remember.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Dr. Lifton, this subject comes up over and over again, and I believe you’ve addressed it somewhere in your books…

After a lifetime of thought and activism, what do you say to whether or not it is helpful to define people or ideas as either “good” or “evil”? Do such terms make sense, and if so, what are their limitations?

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 3:01 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 69

The larger point is that social struggle in general never reaches a complete sartori moment where everything is clear and solved. Rather it is a continuous struggle, over one’s own lifetime and generations that follow, and along the way everything counts.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Thank you. That reply has deep personal meaning to me.

mzchief June 12th, 2011 at 3:05 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 63

Apparently at the time of the creation of the film, “White Light, Black Rain” (multiple parts; starts here), young people interviewed appeared to not know about Hiroshima and the history (time point 3:09).

eCAHNomics June 12th, 2011 at 3:06 pm

Dr Lifton, here’s a zinger I just remembered.

Eric Posner, Judge Richard Posner’s son, was on in-depth in cspan last weekend. Apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Both are extreme Chicago wingnuts who are smart enough to be really dangerous.

WRT torture, Eric responded to a caller that torture had been around so long, that must be bc it is useful. (Presuming pragmatically that something “useful” will not go away no matter what the morality, though he didn’t say that.)

What would be your counterargument, or alternate way of framing the issue.

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 3:06 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 70

There’s great danger of polarizing the world into good and evil, as we saw especially during the George W. Bush administration. That’s why some people advocate giving up entirely the use of the word evil. But I believe we still require the word to evoke some of our most extreme transgressions. Having said that, I have been impressed in my work by the broad capacity of human beings in both constructive and highly destructive directions. We can’t eliminate evil by ridding of ourselves of the word. And the other thing is that ordinary people are capable of evil in what I call “atrocity-producing situations.”

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 3:06 pm
In response to mzchief @ 73

Do you know when that film was made?

Reminds me of the Jay Leno “person-in-the-street” interviews, where the ignorance of the multitudes (at least those in Los Angeles) is put on display for all to see, and laugh at. I’ve laughed to, but also found it at times cruel, and of course at times scary.

Lorraine Watkins June 12th, 2011 at 3:07 pm
In response to TalkingStick @ 67

Sorry for the typo. That’s Dr.

Greg Mitchell June 12th, 2011 at 3:07 pm

Deep issues covered at length in Lifton memoir, or in his life, that haven’t gotten much attention here yet include: Vietnam vets, Nazi doctors, the Armenian genocide, modern cults, capital punishment, Iraq, and on and on.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 3:09 pm

In regards to “atrocity-producing situations”, of course you’ve written about My Lai, and in general how U.S. veterans were affected by the “atrocity-producing situations” that counter-insurgency campaigns in general produce, as in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Are you familiar with the work of Phil Zimbardo, which would appear to be similar on the issue, anyway, of such “atrocity-producing situations,” or of Milgram’s authority experiments? Any thoughts about this work as it relates to your own?

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 3:10 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 74

I’d make two simple points. The way that torture may be useful is less in obtaining information than in asserting one’s coercive control over others. As an expression of collective power. Much torture and expressions of power in general can be related to expressions of omnipotence in which one seeks to control not only suffering but death itself.

mzchief June 12th, 2011 at 3:10 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 76

2007 for the documentary, White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Survivors of that period live here in Portland, OR and are very lucid about the events. I find the ignorance of the youth documented in the film scary especially given the fact it took 3 weeks before the Japanese central government said anything to the residents of Fukushima despite the emergencies in progress.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 3:12 pm
In response to mzchief @ 81

Thanks, I’ll check it out.

joelmael June 12th, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Have you found any relation between strict and/or abusive upbringing and being able to or desire to torture?

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Another question, if I may:

Dr. Lifton, You pretty much created the psychohistory movement. Has it had the influence you hoped? What is the importance of combining psychology and history?

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 3:17 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 20

It’s not too strong a comparison. We should never equate what American doctors have been doing with Nazi doctors, but we can find disturbing parallels. I wrote a short article a few years ago in the New England Journal of Medicine, in which I mention in 3 ways in which American doctors have colluded in torture: failing to report wounds that could only have been caused by torture, falsifying or delaying death certificate and extremely important, collaborating with interrogators and teaching them techniques that spill over into torture. In this last transgression, psychologists have been especially active. And as in the case of Nazi doctors, American physicians can be socialized to such destructive behavior which can prevail in their military unit

eCAHNomics June 12th, 2011 at 3:17 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 42

Also, person may be trained to give a false story upon harsh interrogation,

You mean like political appointees are trained to testify before congress. :-)

eCAHNomics June 12th, 2011 at 3:18 pm
In response to joelmael @ 83

Great Q. Wish I’d have thought of it.

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 3:19 pm

Yes my work on atrocity producing situations is important to me. These are environments that, structurally and psychologically, produce destructive behavior. In this emphasis I share a perspective with psyhcologists such as Stanley Milgrin, Philiop Zimbardo, and Herb Kelman

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 3:20 pm

It appears that the American Psychological Association has been particularly enamored (or its leadership has) with the “opportunities” afforded military psychologists in assisting interrogators. It is an important part of what they are touting as a “new” field: “national security psychology”, which I have found to be a diabolical and dangerous development in the professional dimensions of our field.

eCAHNomics June 12th, 2011 at 3:21 pm

One of the current investigative reporters on U.S. torture (maybe Philippe Sands) has gone into detail on how physicians & psychologists have violated hippocratic oath, even if they just monitor torture sessions.

kspopulist June 12th, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Hello all! Thank you to our hosts and guests and all FDL’ers!

I feel a very small occupant of a small room with a number of very large giants, but this is all a great deal of interest.
I would ask Dr Lifton if he had particular remaining questions about the century long coverup and exposure of the Armenian slaughter so long ago. On both sides, the Armenians all over the world and the Turks in maintaining the silence. My feeling is there would be valuable lessons there to be learned =- how people cope and find healing – that could be applied elsewhere: in Palestine, in the US and so on.
again Thank You

mzchief June 12th, 2011 at 3:22 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 82

Jeff, I suspect there are more insights on today’s salon topic in the following as I have only gotten to see part of this documentary by Xingu Films about the Tianamen Square event, “Moving The Mountain” (1994, trailer).

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 3:23 pm

Yes, medical doctors have the advantage of a Hipocratic oath to do no harm. Psychologists should take one as well. But there have been admiral groups of psychologists combatting the policies of their organization. And they have made some progress.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 3:23 pm
In response to kspopulist @ 91

Great question, kspopulist.

tjbs June 12th, 2011 at 3:26 pm

I always wonder what the torturer / murderer thinks feels when the SUSPECT dies,regret, remorse, revulsion, revelation or anything ? Do they torture again ? Any clues, since we had 108 homicides during questioning, for sure we should be developing a base line.

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 3:27 pm
In response to kspopulist @ 91

Yes the Armenian genocide of 1915 and subsequent years was the first genocide of the 20th century and the one from which Raphael Lemkin derived his powerful concept of genocide as a particular international crime. I’ve been active with Armenian groups attempting to combat a sustained and self-defeating Turkish campaign to deny that genocide. If one condemns Nazi genocide, one must identify and condemn all genocide.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 3:27 pm

You are right, and its important to point out that medical professionals, like psychologist Stephen Soldz and the organization he is currently president of, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, have been speaking out against torture and collaboration with the government on this.

I find that the concept of “doubling,” which you introduced in (IIRC) your book “The Nazi Doctors” is helpful in understanding how this deterioration in professional ethics can take place. Is it a concept you have found helpful in looking at what has happened in the medical/psychological fields since the “war on terror” was introduced? What can be done to combat it? (I think every ethics course for medical professionals should include a unit on it.)

Greg Mitchell June 12th, 2011 at 3:28 pm

Robert was subject of full-length documentary a few months back, it got full run at Film Forum in NYC but not sure if will be NetFlixed, titled “Robert Jay Lifton: Nazi Doctors.”

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 3:30 pm

We need to do more studying of the affects of torturing on torturers. I’m sure these vary but we have observed some interrogators who may have tortured to emerge as critics of torture. We can learn a lot from them.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 3:30 pm
In response to Greg Mitchell @ 98

Hey, I found a trailer for it online.

http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi3315964697/

eCAHNomics June 12th, 2011 at 3:31 pm

Hitler’s attempted genocide of the gypsies has been ignored by all.

eCAHNomics June 12th, 2011 at 3:34 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 97

Wingnuts (or to put it differently, rightwing contributors to medical schools) will allow that into the curriculum right after they agree to leave evolution in.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Before we run out of time, a turn to a more personal question…

What it has been like, Dr. Lifton to immerse yourself in such cataclysmic events — Chinese “thought reform” campaigns, the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult, the Bomb and its apocalyptic promise, Nazi atrocities, U.S. atrocities in Vietnam — to involve yourself in what one psychoanalyst called, the “dirty work” of our time?

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 3:35 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 97

“Doubling” simply involves the creation of a secondary self. Nazi doctors could engage in killing in Aushwitz 5 or 6 days a week and then go on leave to Germany and be ordinary husbands and fathers. Torturers could also take care of their families and buy their kids ice cream while not engaged in their profession. This is part of the human capacity for disa. We can combat it both with well thought out ethics courses and opposition to extreme Ideologies that promote “doubling.”

tjbs June 12th, 2011 at 3:35 pm

I strongly suspect , in these days of instant communication, there were live feeds from the torture chambers to the command center and back in the executive branch where they choreographed the snuff films for a psycho sexual release of power beyond our imagining.

Wouldn’t that be the ultimate grasp and release of power, the God of life and death ?

kspopulist June 12th, 2011 at 3:36 pm

also, Dr Kaye said above:

” with torture occurs. If harsh enough, it can produce an organic brain syndrome in which the person confabulates, that is, they say something, anything, possibly even somewhat related, possibly totally fanciful, and they believe what they are saying.”

To me, what I’ve experienced, and that not thru study, is this is how thru various ‘dilutions’ that people’s minds are often ‘changed’ and become convinced all too often into following paternal-hierarchic social models.
Surrounding us with fearful prospects and reminding there’s ‘only one way out’ and that too is filled with fear and doubt and then forcing us to make a decision. It’s a recipe for loss and but also, a chance at ‘renewal for a way out. The neverending sales job.
In another field, the disaster of the credit mills and how that’s a disaster for the mindset of a golden ticket way out. And look, we’ve surpassed the debt limit! Food and gas prices are just gonna rise!
etcetc.

“Only daddy can make it all better…”

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 3:37 pm

I think it’s helpful to remember that the subtitle to The Nazi Doctors includes a phrase about “the Psychology of Genocide”. As Dr. Lifton points out, such genocidal acts are often portrayed grotesquely as a form of “healing” or “cleansing”, as if human beings were an infection to be wiped out.

mzchief June 12th, 2011 at 3:38 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 101

I did realize the “Gypsy” came from Rajahstan, India, and start migrating from there in the 11th century (National Geographic, no date).

eCAHNomics June 12th, 2011 at 3:38 pm

I’d be surprised if they aren’t hiding out from the torture lobby (Dick & Liz Cheney) in a man-sized safe. Haven’t seen hide nor hair of one. Can you name one who’s gone public?

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 3:39 pm

“human capacity for disa” — FYI, I think you meant to type, “human capacity for dissociation”. Yes, I agree.

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 3:39 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 103

Of course all this work has affected me. My wife used to say that Nazi doctors turned my hair gray, though that might have simply been aging. Loving family relationships have meant a lot as have close friendships in this country and in connection with my work in such places as Hong Kong, Hiroshima, and Germany. I’ve turned more to poetry and literature. And I’ve developed a sense of gallows humor and a strong sense of absurdity much of which I express in bird cartoons that I’ve created and even published. I talk about these things in an op-ed I just wrote, “Woulld I do it Again?” which should be published in a few days in the Boston Globe.

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Sorry my publicist is typing so ignore any typos.

eCAHNomics June 12th, 2011 at 3:41 pm

aka ‘compartmentalization’ in more common usage.

Wh. is how scientists can believe in god, how professional women working 70-80 hours/week can also be moms (I was the subject of such a ‘study’). So there are many much less extreme examples of the phenomenon, which might help readers understand how it works in practice.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 3:41 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 109

I don’t know if Dr. Lifton can or will, but you might want to check out Tony Lagouranis book, “An Army Interrogator’s Dark Journey Though Iraq: Fear Up Harsh.” I think Lagouranis may not be aware of Dr. Lifton’s concept of an “atrocity producing situation,” but it’s exactly what he describes. And his is an anguished soul in accounting for what happened to him. I distinguish, myself, between a quotidian interrogator like him and the masterminds who engineered and carried out the worst sorts of psychological and physical torture.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Your typist is doing a great job, and deserves our thanks, for facilitating access to you.

joelmael June 12th, 2011 at 3:42 pm
In response to eCAHNomics @ 87

I am disappointed that question has been ignored, but not surprised, it usually is avoided. Seems to me important to know whatever the answer.

kspopulist June 12th, 2011 at 3:43 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 94

thank you!

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 3:45 pm
In response to joelmael @ 116

Sorry please repeat the question.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 3:45 pm

I don’t know if there’s going to be time for this, but given your interest in and writing on anti-nuclear issues, do you have any particular reaction to the recent Fukushima reactor meltdown crisis?

June 12th, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Dr. Lifton – just another “ask” to address resilience of people.

Reason I ask is I see a lot of nihilism/acquiescence in life in the US today, in the blog commenteriat and so forth. If there exists some sort of “resilience builder” in a psychological sense, I’d dearly love to know what it is.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Joelmael wrote: “Have you found any relation between strict and/or abusive upbringing and being able to or desire to torture?”

kspopulist June 12th, 2011 at 3:46 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 107

Indeed. Semantics is a terrible thing until they use it to protect the terrible things they’ve done. And then have abarbecue!
I see now this has all been answered, in #88 I think. thank you

joelmael June 12th, 2011 at 3:47 pm

I asked above if you had found any relation between strict or abusive upbringing and a willingness or desire to torture.

eCAHNomics June 12th, 2011 at 3:47 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 114

Yes, I was thinking about Lagouranis when I typed my Q. His disavowal seemed particularly peculiar and he disappeared from the ether pretty quickly after he came out, so I was not sure about him.

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 3:48 pm

Its right to focus on policy-makers near the top who create atrocity-producing situations including torture when I worked with anti-war Vietnam Veterans they emphasized that they must take responsibility or their own actions but those who created the war and it’s methods of fighting needed to take equal or greater responsibility and I agreed with that perspective.

eCAHNomics June 12th, 2011 at 3:49 pm
In response to joelmael @ 116

I suspect that the A is mixed.

Some peeps (many or most if you believe Hollywood) respond in kind, i.e., abused become abusers. But I also suspect that if a thorough investigation were done, many more abused would turn against the practice.

JMO.

Greg Mitchell June 12th, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Sample of Lifton’s bird cartoonery here. His wife once quipped, as he points out in the book, that truly, this is what he will be remembered for…

http://pics.librarything.com/picsizes/6f/81/6f813a3773e1b3f5938616752774141414c3441.jpg

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 3:49 pm

I don’t know what Dr. Lifton will say, but I imagine it will be close to what he replied to me @71 above. It is in doing that we find our way to be resilient, to engage in meaningful tasks. I’ve always thought that’s what Voltaire meant by cultivating our own gardens, i.e., not a turn inward, but a generative turn towards that which is meaningful, towards growth.

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 3:50 pm
In response to kspopulist @ 122

I can’t answer that question as I haven’t done any work on torturers rand their backgrounds. But there was an important Greek film, “Your neighbor;s son” that suggested that very ordinary people were capable of being trained as torturers by establishing an overall ideology that claimed virtue for the torturing group. In my work in general I found that it is almost impossible to kill or torture on a large scale without a claim to virtue.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 3:51 pm
In response to Greg Mitchell @ 127

I see the deep influence of… James Thurber.

June 12th, 2011 at 3:52 pm
In response to Jeff Kaye @ 128

Heh. I often think of Voltaire.

One time he was asked what he thought would be his greatest legacy and he responded “I did manage to plant 4,000 trees at Ferny (his estate.)”

BevW June 12th, 2011 at 3:52 pm

As we come to the end of this Book Salon,

Dr. Lifton, Thank you for stopping by the Lake and spending the afternoon with us discussing your new book and research.

Jeff, Thank you very much for Hosting this great Book Salon.

Everyone, if you would like more information:

Dr. Lifton’s website and book

Jeff’s websites FDL, Truthout,

Next week:
Saturday – Joe Burns (Reviving the Strike)
Hosted by David Swanson.

Sunday – Marjorie Cohn (The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse)
Hosted by Stephen Soldz

Just quick reminder:
Membership drive! Are you an FDL member? If not, please join and help keep FDL delivering kick ass activism and independent journalism. You can join HERE.

Thanks all,
Have a great week!

mzchief June 12th, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Thank you, Robert, Jeff and everyone for today’s excellent salon!

JamesJoyce June 12th, 2011 at 3:54 pm

“Doubling?” “We can combat it both with well thought out ethics courses and opposition to extreme Ideologies that promote “doubling.”

I do not feel it takes “extreme ideologies” to promote doubling.

There is plenty of “doubling,” here is America enabled by accepted ideologies, considered not extreme. Silence is the ultimate enabler of doubling. Ethics courses are not enough when pitted against human nature. Only law and the balls to apply law precludes “doubling!” Ask a war criminal?

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 3:55 pm

I know we will soon be wrapping up here. I want to remind readers that Dr. Lifton’s book, Witness to an Extreme Century: A Memoir, goes on general sale June 14, but can pre-ordered now. I see it’s in top 5 already in Kindle medicine and history books. Congrats, Robert!

Also, if readers liked this Salon, they might remember that FDL is looking for new members to keep great content like this going. You can easily join right now, by clicking here.

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 3:55 pm

I’ve encountered a great deal of resilience in my work: Hiroshima survivors who renewed themselves by telling their stories as a warning to the world, inmate doctors in Aushwitz who helped others to survive vietnam veterans who found their meaning in opposing their war. Maybe an important source of “resilience building” is bringing up our children to have ethical principles and open minds and embracing idea systems that do the same.

eCAHNomics June 12th, 2011 at 3:56 pm

Sounds like the kind of thing a philosopher might say.

Tree planting, I once read, is the one activity that represents the most hopeful attitude toward the future.

Considering how many I’ve planted vs. how many have survived, I’ll withhold judgement until I’m 110 years old. (Am 67 & still planting trees fwiw.)

Q: When is the best time to plant a tree?

A: 25 years ago.

Have quite a few of those, so all is not lost.

Robert Jay Lifton June 12th, 2011 at 3:56 pm

I’ve enjoyed being part of this salon and thank so much for your probing questions.

Jeff Kaye June 12th, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Thank you so much, Dr. Lifton, for coming here today. I know it was greatly appreciated. Thanks to your helpers, as well.

I hope this was a great introduction to Dr. Lifton’s fine, important, even essential work, and that you couldn’t find a better entree into that work than in picking up his new memoir.

Thanks to all the great commenters, too. You really make for an excellent and stimulating Book Salon.

joelmael June 12th, 2011 at 3:59 pm

If any are interested check the reviews on Amazon of the late Alice Miller’s “For Your Own Good”

eCAHNomics June 12th, 2011 at 3:59 pm

My SIL, whose (Jewish) family left Dusseldorf after Krystallnacht when she was 15 and my late husband was 13, recently informed me that she suffered from survivor’s guilt, when talking to a friend whose family went to camps under Hitler. First time in her life she had that emotion.

eCAHNomics June 12th, 2011 at 4:01 pm
In response to joelmael @ 140

Heh.

Not surprised. Think I’ve read every book Alice Miller ever wrote. Decades ago, though, so plenty of time to think about it since.

Which is what led me to my thoughts that children of abusers turn against it as much or more than towards it.

Siun June 12th, 2011 at 4:03 pm

Thank you Dr. Lifton and Jeff and Bev …

Wonderful conversation and an honor to have the doctor as our guest.

kspopulist June 12th, 2011 at 4:03 pm

“Your Neighbor’s Son”, I’ll definitely check out and looking fwd to your book.
Thank you all so much for this.

joelmael June 12th, 2011 at 4:06 pm
In response to Siun @ 143

Yes thanks very much for everything you have done for all of us.

tjbs June 12th, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Thanks for those that tackle a tough subject and in the end we shall overcome the torture fools.

zenmouser June 12th, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Please see Session 6 of the recent Presidential Commission for the Study of BioEthical Issues. The forum was held May 18 & 19 in NYC.

This is the next group of individuals worthy of interviewing on the subject. wadr, the extreme century is far from over. It has in fact, entered a whole new iteration. May you with due diligence, look into it as an eye-opening an revelatory endeavor.

speakingupnow June 12th, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Thank you Dr. Lifton. This exchange has been very interesting reading. Could you do this at least annually?

Sorry but the comments are closed on this post