the unforgetting…

Posted on Wednesday 19 March 2014

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s been something of a bruhaha over the publication of Richard Noll’s article, When Psychiatry Battled the Devil, in the Psychiatric Times. It appeared in early December on-line, then disappeared a week later without a trace. It’s the story of the epidemic of acronymed cases of SRA [Satanic Ritual Abuse], the FMS [the false memory syndrome], MPD [multiple personality disorder], and DID [Dissociative Identity Disorder] that appeared in the late 1980s and faded in the mid 1990s – to be forgotten except for the people [still] imprisoned in its wake. Richard Noll, then a young psychologist, was involved and wrote this article reminding us of what happened. He points out that this whole episode is never mentioned, long forgotten, and asks why? He ends with:
Are we ready now to reopen a discussion on this moral panic? Will both clinicians and historians of psychiatry be willing to be on record? Shall we continue to silence memory, or allow it to speak?
I read it during its week in the sunlight, and thought it was fascinating, including the why? at the end. It hasn’t come up in my mind in decades, and I thought a lot about that. I flagged it to write about, but by the time I got back to it, it was gone. I thought I’d written down the wrong URL, but soon learned that it had been pulled from the Psychiatric Times‘ web site. If you don’t know the story, here are some recent references from here and there:
Well. It’s back! Psychiatric Times republished it on-line today. It has a new name. Instead of When Psychiatry Battled the Devil [on Gary Greenberg’s site][also], it’s now under Richard’s original title, Speak Memory [at Psychiatric Times]. It’s introduced with:
Editorial Note: In light of the responses we have received regarding this article by Richard Noll, PhD, that was posted on our website on December 6, 2013, the article has been reposted with a modification. Additionally, we are posting responses from certain of the individuals mentioned in the article in order to leave analysis of the article up to our readers. We have also requested a response from the author regarding those comments and if Dr. Noll wishes to comment, we will also post that.
I didn’t go line by line, but the "reposted with a modification" seems to refer to omitting …
New APA work groups for the preparation of DSM-IV were formed. Not surprisingly, none of the former members of the DSM-III-R Advisory Committee on Dissociate Disorders was invited to be on the work group for the dissociative disorders.
from the beginning of the second paragraph in the last section [The fade out into forgetfulness]. The article is packaged with three commentaries from the people mentioned in the article. The article is around 2700 words. The commentaries add up to about 5300 words and are pretty dismissive. But reading them, it’s easy to imagine why the Psychiatric Times had its hands full with this article. Richard ends asking if the people involved back then were ready to speak. I’m not sure they were ready, but speak they did! I’ve been so interested in the story about the story [the retraction] that I’m going to sign off, and step back, and reread the article. I want to think about Richard’s original question and specifically my own forgetting like he suggested in the beginning, now three months ago…
    March 19, 2014 | 8:05 PM

    Does psychiatry write large hate working class women any less today than they did when they believed that they were commonly witches? I think “it” has a whole lot of issues to sort through and that most of them won’t even come close to seeing the class and sex/gender biases of their lenses.

    Yes, some men were accused also, and the same was true for all previous witch hunts, but that doesn’t change the fact that working poor women were primarily the targets of the Satanic panic.

    March 21, 2014 | 9:12 AM
    Richard Noll
    March 21, 2014 | 11:14 AM

    Another link to throw into the mix:

    I am happy that this article was written, although I do not think it will prevent many viewers of this TV show from regarding the satanic cult depicted in its plot as “possibly real.” I

    March 21, 2014 | 8:46 PM

    And this:

    Legal Fallacies of Antipsychotic Drugs

    Advances in the biological sciences have dramatically improved the understanding of schizophrenia and related psychotic illnesses. One of the most compelling findings is the substantial degree to which cognition is impaired in these illnesses and the remedial effects that antipsychotic drugs have in treating these cognitive impairments. Despite these promising discoveries, legal cases and scholarship remain replete with pejorative associations with antipsychotic drug action.”…

    Richard Noll
    March 22, 2014 | 7:52 AM

    I am not sure if Mickey will be returning to this subject in a future blog — I think we all need some recovery time after mucking about in the emotionally-charged horrors of the Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA) moral panic of the 1980s and 1990s — but I thought I should note that Psychiatric Times posted my response to the three commentaries on my article. They are my Drs. David Spigel (leader of the DSM-IV committee on the dissociative disorders that brought us DID), Richard Kluft, and Bennet Braun. Here is the link:

    And I have also posted a PDF of the article, comments and my response on

    Understandably, many American psychiatrists of that era have been reluctant to speak out in a public forum about the divisive issues of that era, whether MPD/DID, the MPD/DID link to SRA, and so on. The comments of Drs. Kluft and Braun are historically significant because they are so rare. As far as I can tell, Dr. Braun has not expressed his point of view on these subjects in public since 1999. Dr. Kluft posted comments on the website of the Wall Street Journal in response to a October 2011 book review by Carol Tavris concerning Debbie Nathan’s fascinating historical and journalistic investigation, Sybil Exposed (2011).

    Mental health professionals are still advocating the reality of “ritual abuse” and insisting that thousands of children across America are still being victimized by such groups. They are still presenting these views at conferences hosted by the organization that used to be the ISSMP&D. Mental health professionals are still being sued by patients who are claiming that false memories of ritual abuse were implanted by these therapists. For a quick survey of what is still bubbling out there in the shadowlands of our culture, take a look at the following webpage and spend a little time clicking on all the links embedded in this blog. It made me want to cry:

    It is important to pay attention to such activities that are off our normal radar screens. The MPD/SRA and day care moral panics seemed to erupt out of nowhere. But in an era before the web and email, there was no “early warning system.”

    Richard Noll
    March 25, 2014 | 9:48 AM

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