[sixties-l] Fwd: Campaigns Against Racist Federal Programs

From: radman (resist@best.com)
Date: 12/07/00

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    >The following report was originally published in:
    >Journal of African American Men 1:No. 3, 3-22. Winter 1995/96
    >Campaigns Against Racist Federal Programs by the Center for
    >the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology
    >by Peter R. Breggin, M.D.
    >The Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology was founded in the
    >early 1970s to organize my international campaign to stop the resurgence of
    >lobotomy and other forms of psychosurgery or psychiatric brain surgery.
    >Initially, I had no idea that my campaign would end up focusing on the
    >racist intentions of federally funded biological psychiatrists and
    >neurosurgeons. I certainly could not have anticipated that twenty years
    >later, the Center would once again be fighting a government-sponsored racist
    >psychiatric program. This report tells the story of the first and second
    >violence initiatives and the Center's efforts to counter them.
    >In 1971 I discovered that psychiatrists and neurosurgeons were planning and
    >implementing a worldwide revival of psychosurgery. At the time I was not an
    >activist, but I was aware that no one had publicly opposed the first round
    >of lobotomies in the 1940s and 1950s. I decided to take a stand.
    >My medical training convinced me that improving the techniques of
    >psychiatric surgery-for example, by replacing the scalpel with hot
    >electrodes--would not make the interventions any less damaging. Without
    >harming the brain, there could be no "therapeutic" effect. The surgery must
    >destroy enough function to flatten the patient's emotions. There is no way
    >to accomplish that without creating more widespread mental devastation,
    >including the relative loss of essential human qualities such as creativity,
    >spontaneity, personal responsibility, self-insight, social sensitivity and
    >awareness, and judgment. Research and my personal experiences would confirm
    >this initial impression.2
    >Psychosurgery, Individual Vulnerability, and Public Health
    >Shortly after beginning my opposition to psychosurgery, I came under attack
    >in the national media from an unexpected source, three Harvard
    >professors-psychiatrist Frank Ervin and neurosurgeons Vernon Mark and
    >William Sweet. Sweet was director of neurosurgery at perhaps the most
    >respected hospital in the world, the Massachusetts General. Mark was head of
    >the department of neurosurgery at Boston City Hospital.
    >As the controversy heated up, a physician who asked for anonymity directed
    >me to published remarks made by the three doctors concerning the use of
    >brain surgery to suppress black urban rioters. Soon after, in 1973, I
    >received a brown envelope from an unidentified source in the Department of
    >Justice (DOJ). It contained an in-house memo documenting that Mark and Ervin
    >were receiving funds from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) for
    >experiments in psychosurgery for violence control. Meanwhile, Ervin was also
    >receiving money from the Department of Justice for research on genetic
    >factors in violent crime. Sweet was involved as a supporter, co-author, and
    >a member of the private foundation that funneled the government funds to
    >Mark and Ervin.
    >In a 1967 letter entitled "Role of Brain Disease in Riots and Urban
    >Violence" in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Mark,
    >Sweet and Ervin, much like current violence-initiative advocates, focused on
    >individual vulnerability rather than upon larger social, economic or
    >political factors. They asked, "if slum conditions alone determined and
    >initiated riots, why are the vast majority of slum dwellers able to resist
    >the temptations of unrestrained violence? Is there something peculiar about
    >the violent slum dweller that differentiates him from his peaceful
    >Mark, Sweet and Ervin went on to suggest that this "peculiarity" was "brain
    >dysfunction." They called for large-scale studies of the inner city to
    >"pinpoint, diagnose, and treat those people with low violence thresholds
    >before they contribute to further tragedies." In a supportive "Medical News"
    >report a few weeks later, JAMA lauded Mark and Ervin's psychosurgery as a
    >"public health" measure.
    >Mark and Ervin must have felt they were on a heroic, Nobel Prize-winning
    >endeavor-providing a solution to worldwide mayhem, and especially to
    >America's urban uprisings. In 1968, a year in which they were aggressively
    >experimenting on patients, they wrote in Psychiatric Opinion that "brain
    >dysfunction" was "equally important" to "poverty, unemployment and
    >substandard housing" as a cause of urban violence. They estimated that tens
    >of millions of Americans might be violence prone as a result of brain
    >In testimony on civil disorders before a New York State legislative
    >committee in 1968 (Bird, 1968), William Sweet "said mass violence might be
    >touched off by leaders suffering from temporal seizures of the brain." Sweet
    >made a pitch for the electrical stimulation of surgically implanted
    >electrodes as a method of calming violent people.
    >Mark, Ervin and Sweet had their greatest PR coup when their work made the
    >cover of Life on June 21, 1968 (Rosenfeld, 1968). Life observed, "The
    >psychobiology approach, new as it is, is gaining adherents so fast that it
    >might almost be called a movement." Life seemed to endorse their efforts
    >toward biomedical social control:
    >In a slum neighborhood, everyone may live under the same frustrating set of
    >pressures and tensions, but only a small minority will engage in rioting,
    >and even among the rioters only a handful will actually burn down a building
    >or assault another person. Thus psychobiology proceeds on the premise that
    >violent acts are carried out by violent individuals, even if the individuals
    >are part of a mob.
    >The article gave a big spread to Mark and Ervin's psychosurgery for
    >The fate of Thomas R
    >In their book, Violence and the Brain (1970), and elsewhere, Mark and Ervin
    >described Thomas R (sometimes called Leonard K) as a young white man largely
    >saved from epilepsy and completely saved from violence by psychosurgery.
    >When describing his outcome, they mention no serious side effects. He was
    >their star patient.
    >The patient's mother, Mrs. G., read my criticism of Mark and Ervin in the
    >Boston Globe and realized for the first time what had been done to her son.
    >She wrote to me that in reality he had been reduced almost to a "vegetable."
    >Thomas's tragic story is retold in detail in Breggin and Breggin, The War
    >Against Children.
    >Mark and Ervin Lose Their Funding
    >As a result of the antipsychosurgery campaign, all of Mark, Ervin and
    >Sweet's federal funding for genetic and psychosurgical experimentation was
    >cut off. As a long-delayed satisfaction to us, we learned this year that the
    >Center's campaign against the DOJ's Law Enforcement Assistance
    >Administration (LEAA) funding for Ervin had brought about a dramatic
    >reversal in official government policy. A guideline entitled "Use of LEAA
    >funds for Psychosurgery and Medical Research" was signed by the LEAA
    >administrator, Donald E. Santarelli, on June 19, 1974. The guideline
    >declared that any future grant applications for psychosurgery would be
    >denied. It further stipulated that all "medical research," unless risk-free,
    >would be denied and referred instead to the Department of Health, Education
    >and Welfare (DHEW, now DHHS). It forbid states to use LEAA block grants to
    >do psychosurgery or medical experimentation.
    >As far as we know, Mark and Ervin did not perform their psychosurgery
    >experiments on any African Americans. With more limited political aims,
    >perhaps, another surgeon was operating on numerous black children. When I
    >began researching the return of psychosurgery in the early 1970s, I quickly
    >came upon the work of O.J. Andy, director of neurosurgery at the University
    >of Mississippi-Ole Miss-in Jackson. He was publishing reports on multiple
    >surgical interventions into the brains of small children, ages five to
    >twelve, who were diagnosed as aggressive and hyperactive. Of his 30-40
    >patients, he wrote me in 1971, most were children.
    >Before the controversy hit the press, l phoned Andy, who told me he could
    >not recall the race of any of the children. Later I contacted a civil rights
    >attorney in Mississippi who was able to determine that most of them were
    >housed in a segregated black institution for the developmentally disabled.
    >The attorney got onto the wards, where the nurses told him with frustration
    >that Andy had a completely free hand in picking children for psychosurgery.
    >In 1966 Andy described J. M., age nine, who was "hyperactive, aggressive,
    >combative, explosive, destructive, sadistic." Over a three-year period Andy
    >performed four separate mutilating operations involving at least six lesions
    >with implanted electrodes. The youngster was at first said to be doing well.
    >In a subsequent 1970 article, Andy again claimed that J. M. is no longer so
    >combative and negative. Then he added, "lntellectually, however, the patient
    >is deteriorating."
    >While Andy did not take an activist political position like Mark, Ervin and
    >Sweet-he did tell B. J. Mason, a reporter for Ebony, that black urban
    >rioters "could have abnormal pathologic brains" and "should undergo tests
    >with whatever capacity we have now." Following world-wide publicity about
    >his operations during the antipsychosurgery campaign, in 1973 a committee of
    >his peers at the university declared his research experimental. When Andy
    >did not establish appropriate experimental protocols, he was prohibited from
    >operating. Andy himself declared in 1980 that he had been forced to stop
    >operating due to "sociological pressures" in his home community.
    >In his 1973 State of the State message, California governor Ronald Reagan
    >announced plans for the establishment of a biomedical facility, the Center
    >for the Study of the Reduction of Violence. Supported by state and federal
    >funds, the first center was planned for the psychiatry department at UCLA,
    >headed by Louis Jolyn "Jolly" West, a flamboyant psychiatrist known for his
    >ability to hitch himself to hot topics. An early draft of West's proposed
    >UCLA center described using schools in Chicano and African American
    >neighborhoods to screen for possible genetic defects. It also mentioned the
    >possibility of psychosurgery. The suggestion of psychosurgery for control of
    >violence was especially menacing in California because Santa Monica
    >neurosurgeon M. H. Brown was strongly advocating it. In a January 22, 1972
    >letter to the Los Angeles Times, he wrote "It is either this [psychosurgery]
    >or a further escalation of violence and chaos in society that does not serve
    >the best interests of the United States."
    >Meanwhile, Frank Ervin left the collapsing Boston project and came to join
    >West at UCLA. Ervin's arrival at this critical juncture alerted people to
    >the center's potential dangers. Despite denials from psychiatrists West and
    >Ervin, the discovery of references to genetics and psychosurgery in the
    >original proposal proved politically fatal. Opposed by the Center and a
    >coalition of west coast reformers,3 the planned string of federal violence
    >centers never got off the ground.
    >The Kaimowitz Trial
    >In 1972 the State of Michigan and the Lafayette Clinic of Wayne State
    >University began planning an experimental psychosurgery program for the
    >control of violence, using "voluntary" inmates of the state hospital system.
    >Gabe Kaimowitz, at the time a Michigan Legal Services lawyer, heard about
    >the upcoming medical event, and intervened in the court on behalf of "John
    >Doe" and two dozen other state psychiatric inmates scheduled for eventual
    >enrollment in the experimental program.
    >Comparing Blacks to Bulls
    >Ernst Rodin was the chief neurologist and the moving force behind the
    >Lafayette Clinic's psychosurgery project. In 1972, Rodin wrote a lengthy
    >speech describing psychosurgery and castration as fitting treatment for some
    >of the violent behavior displayed in the riots that had raged in his city of
    >Detroit. Rodin voiced doubts about doing psychosurgery without
    >sterilization, because with psychosurgery alone "the now hopefully more
    >placid dullard can inseminate other equally dull young females to produce
    >further dull and aggressive offspring."
    >Rodin argued that children of limited intelligence tend to become violent
    >when they are treated as equals. He wanted them brought up in an
    >"authoritarian life style," and declared that many of them, like aggressive
    >bulls, should be turned into docile oxen by means of castration. In the
    >neurologist's own words, it was time to "get down to cold-blooded medical
    >research dealing with individuals rather than masses."
    >The Verdict
    >Kaimowitz invited me to testify as his medical expert and during two days on
    >the stand, I gave a history of state mental hospitals and psychosurgery. I
    >wanted the three judges to understand that state mental hospitals are
    >similar to Nazi concentration camps in how they suppress and humiliate their
    >involuntary inmates; and I wanted to suggest the applicability of the
    >Nuremberg Code.
    >The Nuremberg Code was originally written into the final opinion of the
    >judges at the first War Crimes Tribunals in postwar Germany. It consists of
    >ten principles for "permissible medical experiments." The first principle
    >states in part that the human subject "should be so situated as to be able
    >to exercise free power of choice, without the intervention of any element of
    >force, fraud, deceit, duress, over-reaching, or other ulterior form of
    >constraint or coercion" (Trials of War Criminals, 1946-1949, pp. 181-182).
    >The Nuremberg Code meant that Jewish inmates of concentration camps were not
    >actually volunteers when they seemingly agreed to participate in medical
    >experiments, such as being frozen in ice water. If they did acquiesce to
    >these experiments, their consent was coerced by fear of other worse
    >alternatives, such as torture or death in the gas chambers.
    >After hearing a spectrum of witnesses, the three judges agreed with the
    >substance of my testimony, including the devastating effects of the most
    >modern psychosurgery.4 Their official opinion cited the Nuremberg Code and
    >used it as one reason for prohibiting consent to psychosurgery in the state
    >mental hospitals of Michigan. The judges found that "involuntarily confined
    >patients cannot reason as equals with doctors and administrators over
    >whether they should undergo psychosurgery." They declared that under First
    >Amendment freedoms the "government has no power or right to control men's
    >minds, thoughts, and expressions. If the First Amendment protects the
    >freedom to express ideas, it necessarily follows that it must protect the
    >freedom to generate ideas."
    >The opinion was never appealed and stands to this day. It continues to
    >inhibit the performance of psychosurgery throughout the country, especially
    >in state mental hospitals and prisons.
    >As described in The War Against Children, there are contemporary attempts to
    >revive lobotomy and other forms of psychosurgery, although none of the
    >advocates now dare tie their work to political aims. What keeps advocates of
    >psychosurgery from proceeding ahead full-throttle? Is it their own
    >scientific caution or ethical concerns? In Psychosurgery, (1992), Rodgers
    >quotes Donlin Long, the Johns Hopkins director of neurosurgery:
    >``You'd also need an institutional commitment to absolutely pristine science
    >and the guts to tell the Peter Breggins of the world to stuff it,' he [Long]
    >added, referring to psychiatrist Peter Breggin's lifelong battle to ban
    >psychiatric surgery.
    >Overall, the Center's activities-supported by other activists and
    >organizations around the country-resulted in victory over the first violence
    >initiative. The most effective activists were found in the black community,
    >especially the Black Congressional Caucus. Louis Stokes (D-OH) and Ronald V.
    >Dellums (D-CA) became founding members of the Center's board of directors,
    >and have remained with the Center for the past twenty years. The single most
    >important media event was probably an article in Ebony written by B. J.
    >Mason (1973) in which he exposed the whole racist agenda.
    >In a surprising coalition, white conservatives in the U.S. Senate were also
    >instrumental in opposing some aspects of the first violence initiative,
    >especially the resurgence of psychiatric brain surgery. Their chief concern
    >was not racial justice but morality. To many of them, tampering with the
    >brain for emotional or behavioral control robbed individuals of personal
    >responsibility and was therefore unethical.
    >After the debacle of the late 1970s, leaders of biological psychiatry
    >avoided linking their efforts to anything that might be construed as a
    >racist political agenda. Unhappily, they could not be silenced or held in
    >check indefinitely. The rise of violent crime, renewed racism, and economic
    >stresses in the early 1990s provided them fertile ground. The polarization
    >in the country was symbolized, this second time around, by a tragic
    >political reality: Unlike their position in the first round, conservatives
    >would support the new biological racism.
    >Rhesus Monkeys and Inner-City Youth
    >At the head of now disbanded Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health
    >Administration (ADAMHA), psychiatrist Frederick Goodwin was the federal
    >government's highest ranking psychiatrist and one of the world's leading
    >biological psychiatrists. He was thrust into the hot lights of national
    >media attention in early 1992 after he allegedly made remarks that compared
    >inner city youth to monkeys who live in a jungle, and who just want to kill
    >each other, have sex and reproduce. The statements in question were made at
    >a February 11 meeting of the prestigious National Advisory Mental Health
    >Council. One person in attendance, an African American government employee,
    >was offended enough to phone the Washington Post.5
    >Ten days of escalating media debate and criticism ensued, at the end of
    >which Goodwin issued an apology. On February 21, 1992 he said he had
    >"learned all too painfully that the absence of malice or bad intentions does
    >not excuse the insensitivity" of his comments, adding, "In an effort to shed
    >light on the violence problem, I juxtaposed primate research to the problems
    >in our cities in a careless way. I regret this insensitivity."
    >Media controversy continued, but as yet no one had seen the actual
    >transcript of Goodwin's speech to the National Advisory Mental Health
    >Council. Meanwhile, Goodwin resigned as head of ADAMHA; but Louis Sullivan
    >immediately appointed him to a post he was already scheduled to assume,
    >director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Goodwin remained
    >well-placed to lead the violence initiative.
    >Defending Goodwin
    >The media coverage of Goodwin's apparently racist remarks was considerable,
    >and Congressman John Conyers, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus,
    >demanded Goodwin's resignation. But then Conyers came under fire from the
    >Wall Street Journal in a March 9 editorial titled "The Speech Police." The
    >Washington Post followed with an editorial on March 21, "The Fred Goodwin
    >Case," stating that an otherwise great scientist and psychiatrist had made
    >an unfortunate slip. The newspaper commented, "this is the political high
    >season. When the going got tough, Dr. Fred Goodwin was out."
    >In an effort to lend support to Congressman John Conyers, Ginger Ross
    >Breggin and I visited his office on March 17, 1992. There we read the newly
    >arrived verbatim transcript of Goodwin's remarks to the National Advisory
    >Mental Health Council. The transcript not only confirmed Goodwin's
    >comparison between monkeys and inner-city youth, it contained something far
    >more threatening. The government was indeed planning a program of urban
    >biomedical social control aimed at identifying and treating children with
    >presumed genetic and biological "vulnerabilities" that might make them prone
    >to violence in later years.
    >Goodwin described this inner city psychiatric intervention as "one of the
    >planning initiatives that is the top priority of the agency now for its
    >planning for the future-and what we mean here is the 1994 budget."
    >Goodwin emphasized NlMH's unique expertise and role in identifying the
    >vulnerable individual-the youngster who might grow up to be violent. He
    >spoke of "early detection" and "preventive interventions." While he
    >acknowledged that "psychosocial variables" do contribute to crime, he
    >focused on psychiatric concepts of "impulsivity," "biological correlates"
    >and "genetic factors." He said that genetic factors in violence and crime
    >"are very strong."
    >He discussed the need to identify specific populations for "extensive and
    >expensive productive interventions." Because the interventions would be
    >costly, it would be necessary to "narrow your focus on your population that
    >you are going to intervene in" to "hone down to something under 100,000."
    >Goodwin noted the public's concern over violent crime, and suggested that
    >there would be more political support or "leverage" for focusing on
    >individuals rather than on social reform or "large social engineering of
    >society." He cited gun control as an example of social engineering that
    >would draw less support than focusing on individual criminals. It was in
    >this overall context that Goodwin had made his comparison between inner-city
    >youth and monkeys in a jungle:
    >If you look, for example, at male monkeys, especially in the wild, roughly
    >half of them survive to adulthood. The other half die by violence. That is
    >the natural way of it for males, to knock each other off and, in fact, there
    >are some interesting evolutionary implications of that because the same
    >hyperaggressive monkeys who kill each other are also hypersexual, so they
    >copulate more and therefore they reproduce more to offset the fact that half
    >of them are dying. Now, one could say that if some of the loss of structure
    >in this society, and particularly in the high impact inner city areas, has
    >removed some of the civilizing evolutionary things that we have built up and
    >that maybe it isn't t just careless use of the word when people call certain
    >areas of certain cities jungles, that we may have gone back to what might be
    >more natural, without all of the social controls that we have imposed upon
    >ourselves as a civilization over thousands of years in our own evolution.
    >In March 1992, immediately after we obtained the transcript of Goodwin's
    >remarks to the National Advisory Mental Health Council, we began to organize
    >a national campaign against the government's plans. We started by sending
    >out hundreds and eventually thousands of reports from the Center for the
    >Study of Psychiatry and Psychology and by attempting to arouse media
    >Goodwin at the American Psychiatric Association
    >By the spring of 1992, the government was trying to evade the flak that
    >Goodwin had drawn over his comparison between monkeys and urban youth living
    >in a jungle. Our efforts to interest the media and the nation in the even
    >more ominous concrete plans for the violence initiative met with little
    >initial success. Then on May 5 Goodwin spoke to the annual convention of the
    >American Psychiatric Association on the subject of "Conduct Disorder as a
    >Precursor to Adult Violence and Substance Abuse." It would be the last time
    >he elaborated in a public forum on his views about violence prevention.
    >After carefully couching his remarks, Goodwin reached his main interest,
    >"focus on the violent-prone individual." He brought up the genetic question
    >and stated, as if it were a proven fact, "There is a genetic contribution to
    >antisocial personality disorder." According to Goodwin, while the genetic
    >factor in crime and violence is not "overwhelming," it is a prerequisite.6
    >Without directly saying so, he was making clear that violent inner city men
    >have a predisposing genetic makeup.
    >Finding the Preliminary Plan
    >Under the Freedom of Information Act, we submitted requests to the
    >government for all documents pertaining to biological and medical research
    >into violence and Goodwin's proposed inner-city interventions. Stuffed
    >within one large batch of papers was an unsigned, three-page document dated
    >March 9, 1992 that bears a striking resemblance to Goodwin's May 1992 speech
    >at APA. It may have been a draft that was prepared prior to the outbreak of
    >the controversy. This document indicates that as of March 1992 someone at
    >NIMH-very possibly Goodwin himself-was relating the violence initiative to
    >pharmacological interventions, specifically including Prozac.
    >Was There a Written Plan ?
    >We always suspected that Goodwin's speeches-with their emphasis on
    >individual vulnerability, biology and genetics-reflected a formal written
    >plan for the 1994 budget. It was not until later in our campaign that a
    >source who wishes to remain anonymous provided us with a nine-page
    >single-spaced typewritten manuscript entitled "Violent Behavior: Etiology
    >and Early Intervention." The heading identifies it as a section from "ADAMHA
    >1994 Planning Documents" and Secretary of DHHS Louis Sullivan confirmed its
    >authenticity as ADAMHA's proposed violence initiative for the 1994 budget.
    >It probably dates from the first months of 1992 or earlier.
    >The plan's one-paragraph abstract summarizes that "minority populations are
    >disproportionately affected" and then points to "An emerging scientific
    >capacity to identify the individual determinants of behavior-at the
    >biochemical, psychological, and social/environmental levels." The proposal
    >further states, "Although the problem is societal in scope, our solutions
    >must reflect increasing scientific and clinical capacities to isolate and
    >target the individual determinants of violence." It emphasizes, "ADAMHA will
    >focus on individual vulnerability factors."
    >The 1994 budget planning document maintains that "the precursors of violent
    >behavior are evident at an early age." As the "precursors of future violent
    >behavior," it lists a broad spectrum of childhood behaviors: "physical
    >aggression, deviant behavior, attention deficits and hyperactivity-manifest
    >early on."
    >The goal is to develop new treatment approaches for the targeted
    >children-"to tailor clinical as well as population-based interventions to
    >[these] behavioral risk factors." ADAMHA will stress "the importance of
    >individual risk factors... in identifying and treating those who are likely
    >to engage in violent behavior." These treatments are linked to genetic
    >abnormalities in brain chemistry.7 Perhaps most potentially menacing, the
    >plan proposes research centers for "the testing of a variety of
    >interventions aimed at the individual, family and community."
    >In the spring of 1992, talk radio and TV shows with large African American
    >audiences began responding to our educational campaign, beginning with WPFW
    >(Radio Pacifica Network) in Washington, DC and culminating in the summer
    >with news stories and two interview shows on Black Entertainment Television
    >(BET). The government seemed most affected by the response to two talk
    >shows, "Lead Story" and "Our Voices." Extensive mainstream media coverage
    >would follow; but African American show hosts began the process.
    >Beyond our personal network of friends and colleagues associated with the
    >Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology, most of our initial
    >support again came from African American activists, starting in Washington,
    >D.C. and then Harlem, Chicago, and Watts. Eventually, public support, like
    >the media interest, broadened to include many individuals, organizations,
    >and cities. The 26 members of the Congressional Black Caucus sought
    >Goodwin's ouster from ADAMHA and they also protested his appointment as NIMH
    >Director. The Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi), Blacks in
    >Government (BIG), the Black Business Alliance, the American Counseling
    >Association (the largest in the world), and the National Association for
    >Rights Protection and Advocacy (NARPA) also took strong stands against
    >Goodwin and the proposals for biopsychiatric interventions into the inner
    >The "Crime Gene" Conference
    >After we had begun our initial efforts to publicize the violence initiative,
    >Ginger Ross Breggin and I received information that the University of
    >Maryland had received funds from the Human Genome Project to hold a
    >conference on "Genetic Factors in Crime." Developed by University of
    >Maryland professor David Wasserman, the conference was scheduled for October
    >9, 1992 at the university. After we obtained the conference brochure, we met
    >with three African Americans: Ron Walters, Director of the Department of
    >Political Science at Howard University; Lorne Cress-Love, a WPFW radio
    >columnist; and Sam Yette, former professor of journalism at Howard and
    >author of The Choice. We decided together to call for a halt to the
    >We based our initial opposition to the conference on its brochure, which
    >promoted research on the "genetic regulation of violent and impulsive
    >behavior." The supposed discovery of genetic factors in psychiatric
    >conditions was put forth as an encouraging precedent. The alleged failure of
    >psychosocial approaches was also cited:
    >But genetic research also gains impetus from the apparent failure of
    >environmental approaches to crime deterrence, diversion, and
    >rehabilitation-to affect the dramatic increases in crime, especially violent
    >crime, that this country has experienced in the past 30 years.
    >The conference brochure anticipated the possibility of treating genetically
    >"predisposed" individuals by means of "drugs," as well as unnamed less
    >intrusive therapies. To obtain federal funding for his proposed conference,
    >Wasserman had applied to NIH and the lengthy application read like an
    >elaboration of Goodwin's plans:
    >Genetic and neurobiological research holds out the prospect of identifying
    >individuals who may be predisposed to certain kinds of criminal conduct. ..
    >and of treating some predispositions with drugs and unintrusive
    >therapies.... Such research will enhance our ability to treat genetic
    >predispositions pharmacologically....
    >The Human Genome Project
    >The "Genetic Factors in Crime" conference was funded by NlH's controversial,
    >highly publicized Human Genome Project.8 The Human Genome Project is a large
    >federal program aimed at mobilizing international science to map the
    >complete set of human hereditary factors. Supporters of the Human Genome
    >Project had gone as far as to suggest that homelessness and crime might be
    >solved as a result of its discoveries.
    >The idea of a conference linking crime and genetics caught the attention of
    >the media and the public. That critics were trying to stop the conference
    >from taking place heightened the drama. Concern spread to England and
    >Germany, countries in which the eugenics8 movement had thrived prior to
    >Hitler taking power. Comparisons were made between the theme of the
    >conference and similar discussions in Nazi Germany. Heated debate was
    >generated in major newspapers and magazines, and in scientific and academic
    >journals. It resulted in panels at political and scientific meetings, as
    >well as dozens of radio interviews and TV coverage.
    >The Cowering Inferno
    >A month before the conference, NIH withdrew its grant and the University of
    >Maryland cancelled the conference for lack of funds. But the university did
    >not reject or abandon the idea, continued to seek funding, and set in motion
    >a formal protest over NlH's withdrawal of support. Some defenders of
    >biomedical research into violence accused NIH of backing down out of
    >cowardice. In November 1992, The Journal of NIH Research called NIH the
    >"cowering inferno":
    >Curiously, however, NIH, NIMH, and HHS cowered from Breggin's criticism and
    >only recently have begun to respond to his accusations.' In addition to
    >NlH's halting the genetics and crime meeting, NIMH in early September
    >abruptly canceled a workshop on "Clinical Factors in Aggression slated for
    >Sept. 21-22. Goodwin . . was ordered by HHS officials to cancel [media]
    >Academic freedom or Political Irresponsibility?
    >The Human Genome Project has enormous prestige. We feared that its support
    >for the genetics conference legitimized a debate with no substance, making
    >it appear as if there must be something worth discussing. After all, why
    >would the Human Genome Project hold a conference with no scientific merit?
    >Why would it hold a conference that moved America one step closer to
    >biomedical social control?
    >Experience convinced us that whatever might actually be debated at the
    >conference, the press would play up the biological and genetic arguments.
    >Biopsychiatric claims regularly make newspaper headlines, while psychosocial
    >ones almost never do. While conference advocates claimed it would stir up
    >"healthy public controversy," we felt it would encourage the false
    >conclusion that violent criminals are genetically flawed. Opposition to the
    >conference, as it turned out, created a much larger and more searching
    >public discussion than the unopposed conference possibly could have done.
    >The Justice Department's Version of the Violence Initiative
    >While our initial focus was on the health agencies, we gradually put
    >together information showing that another part of the government was already
    >sponsoring a large-scale version of Goodwin's plans. Entitled the "Program
    >on Human Development and Criminal Behavior," it is funded by the Department
    >of Justice (DOJ) and the MacArthur Foundation, probably with money from NIH
    >as well. In the words of a 1992 brochure from the DOJ, "It represents an
    >unprecedented partnership between federal government and a private
    >The director of the project, Felton Earls, as well as codirector Albert J.
    >Reiss, Jr., were key figures in developing the NRC's blueprint for the
    >violence initiative. Earls-himself an African American-is professor of child
    >psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and professor of human behavior and
    >development at the Harvard School of Public Health. Reiss is a professor of
    >sociology at Yale's Institute for Social and Police Studies, and lectures at
    >the law school.
    >Earl's vision, like Goodwin's, is based on "disease prevention" (Earls,
    >1991) and aims at screening and identifying individual children as potential
    >offenders in need of preventive treatment or control. According to the DOJ,
    >nine groups of subjects, "starting prenatally and at ages 3, 6, 9, 12, 15,
    >18, 21, and 24, will be followed for 8 years." A total of 11,000 people will
    >be studied. The project will "link key biological, psychological, and social
    >factors that may play a role in the development of criminal behavior" and
    >search for "biological" and "biomedical" markers for predicting criminality.
    >Again according to the DOJ, the first of the project's "Questions to be
    >answered" is:
    >Individual differences. What biological, biomedical, and psychological
    >characteristics, some of them present from the beginning of life, put
    >children at risk for delinquency and criminal behavior?
    >This is entirely consistent with Goodwin's plan.
    >While Earls also believes in the importance of the environment, he focuses
    >his project on the role of biological and genetic factors in predisposing
    >the individual and perhaps in driving him toward violence and crime. In a
    >1991 publication, "A Developmental Approach to Understanding and Controlling
    >Violence," he writes that "advances in the fields of behavior genetics,
    >neurobiology, and molecular biology are renewing the hope that the
    >biological determinants of delinquent and criminal behavior may yet be
    >discovered." In discussing "key developmental questions" that he wishes to
    >answer, Earls emphasizes genetic and biological factors.
    >Earls declares there is evidence for a genetic factor "in violent behavior
    >among individuals." But the Mednick, Brenna and Kandel (1988) study that he
    >cites as evidence comes to the opposite conclusion, stating definitively
    >that it could "find no evidence of hereditary transmission of violent
    >criminal behavior" and that "a genetic predisposition to violence was not
    >supported by this review of our data." (Interestingly, Frederick Goodwin had
    >also incorrectly cited Mednick studies). Earls believes that spinal taps are
    >intrusive and unwarranted by our current state of knowledge, but wants to
    >measure the brain's chemical activity through blood samples, and
    >testosterone levels through saliva.11
    >The project is receiving an estimated $12 million per year for the eight
    >years from all sources, including some previously unidentified money from
    >NIH. The combining of Harvard and Yale, the Department of Justice, NIH, and
    >a prestigious private foundation raises the political specter of psychiatric
    >social control. It is truly Big Brother in scope.
    >We originally heard a rumor that the violence initiative controversy was
    >making it difficult for Earls to get communities to accept his project.
    >Eventually Earls himself declared that due to our campaign against his
    >project, he was forced to drop biologically intrusive elements, such as
    >spinal taps.
    >The federal umbrella program called the violence initiative was withdrawn as
    >a result of the controversy initiated by the Center for the Study of
    >Psychiatry and Psychology. While individual programs continued to be
    >sponsored by the federal government, there would be no overall coordinated
    >policy. Frederick Goodwin, meanwhile, resigned from the federal government
    >to become a professor at George Washington University.
    >The overall result, however, is not nearly so positive. As documented in The
    >War Against Children, many biopsychiatric leaders in the federal government
    >continue to view violence as genetic and biological in origin, and many
    >federally funded projects investigating such views continued unabated. A
    >multimillion dollar program, for example, is promoting the use of Ritalin
    >for the control of disruptive behavior. Other projects continue to seek
    >genetic and biological causes for violence.
    >Earls's violence initiative project has finally located a welcoming
    >city-Chicago. At this moment, it has already begun implementation, although
    >leaders in that city are organizing to counter it. While it seemingly has
    >given up its original biological research aims, Earls's program remains
    >focused on the individual and the family, instead of on racist national
    >policies that create the problems in the inner city.
    >Finally, the "Genetic Factors in Crime" conference was held in 1995 by the
    >University of Maryland, although with a more balanced format. NIH decided
    >that the funds had been taken away improperly.
    >For Whom the Bell Tolls
    >As the controversy over the violence initiative simmered down, another
    >scientific assault was mounted on the African American community. This new
    >racist manifestation grows from the same political and social roots as the
    >violence initiative. It is spearheaded by the best-selling 1994 book, The
    >Bell Curve, authored by Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray. The book
    >purports to prove that Africans, including black Americans, are genetically
    >deficient in intelligence. It promotes programs that would ultimately cut
    >off aid to most black mothers and their children. The concept that African
    >American youth are both genetically violent and genetically stupid
    >resurrects the discredited King Kong image of black American males.
    >A public health approach to crime prevention sounds scientific and humane.
    >It gains authority from a respected tradition of life-saving interventions.
    >But is the violence initiative really in the tradition of public health?
    >In reality, public health moves beyond medicine's typical emphasis on
    >individual vulnerability. It focuses on the broader environmental and social
    >factors that affect human well-being and disease.
    >When public health officials realized that foul water can spread disease,
    >individuals were no longer blamed for getting physically ill. It wasn't the
    >"bad habits" or "weak heredity" of the poor, but deadly micro-organisms in
    >the city water. Instead of spinning wheels over why some people got sicker
    >than others, water quality and sanitation were improved, with dramatic
    >Smog remains a serious public health threat. While there is considerable
    >individual variability in reaction to air pollution- some people hardly
    >notice it and others die from it-the public health strategy attacks the
    >source of the problem. When air quality improves, all individuals benefit
    >and severe reactions are minimized.
    >Recently there have been incidents of food poisoning at fast food
    >restaurants. Some people got sicker than others, and some may not have
    >gotten sick at all; but instead of focusing on these individual differences,
    >the public health approach led to tighter regulation of the safety of meat.
    >The government focus on vulnerable individuals actually abandons public
    >health in favor of traditional medicine. It obscures the reality that the
    >high rates of physical aggression cannot be understood outside the larger
    >environmental context. While it is important to hold individuals morally
    >responsible for their conduct, when the rate of crime seems to abruptly
    >escalate within an oppressed minority, it becomes critical to look for
    >causes beyond the individual and ultimately beyond the local community.
    >Why would the government pervert the concept of public health? The violence
    >initiative was timed with the election year to distract voters from larger
    >political factors impinging on the inner city, such as poverty,
    >unemployment, inadequate or absent health care, the unavailability of
    >housing, the decay of the schools, and racism. It supported the growing
    >political tendency to blame poverty, crime and other social phenomena on
    >individuals and their families rather than on public policy, economics, and
    >broader social issues, such as racism. It is time to unambiguously condemn
    >all pseudo-scientific research that distracts America from its fundamental
    >social and economic problems, including racism.
    >Iam white and Jewish. It feels like a special honor to work in close
    >association with African Americans on behalf of human liberty and mutual
    >respect. As I look back on the fight against the first and second violence
    >initiatives, it strikes me that the victories would not have been won
    >without the vigorous participation of African Americans. Often the dominant
    >white society seems indifferent to the various psychiatric abuses, whether
    >they affected blacks or the entire society. For example, I had little
    >success in opposing the return of lobotomy until its effects on the blacks
    >aroused their concerns. Right now the drugging of children in general
    >escalates in America, with millions of school-boys and girls on Ritalin and
    >other psychiatric medications. Yet it is only among blacks that I have found
    >any concerted ethical or spiritual outrage over the medical diagnosing and
    >drugging of America's children. It is ironic indeed that the black community
    >remains a bulwark of ethics, social conscience, and empathy for children
    >within the very society that so oppresses it.
    >Much of this article is adapted from The War Against Children (1994) by
    >Peter R. Breggin, M.D. and Ginger Ross Breggin by permission of St. Martin's
    >Press. The book contains additional details and citations. The author's
    >critique of biological psychiatry is further elaborated in Toxic Psychiatry
    >(1991 ) and Talking Back to Prozac (1994) (with Ginger Ross Breggin).
    >1. The Center for the Study of Psychiatry and Psychology is a nonprofit
    >research and educational network founded in the early 1970s by Peter Breggin
    >and twenty other individuals, including reform minded mental health
    >professionals and members of the U.S. Congress and Senate. Its board of
    >directors and advisory council now have more than a hundred members.
    >2. For citations concerning psychosurgery, see Breggin and Breggin, The War
    >Against Children.
    >3. Opposition to the violence centers was broadbased: psychologist and
    >attorney Edward M. Opton, Jr., psychiatrists Lee Coleman and Phil Shapiro,
    >civil rights and women's groups, African American activists, and many
    >psychiatric survivors, including Leonard Frank and Wade Hudson.
    >4. The technique of psychosurgery has not changed since the Kaimowitz case.
    >5. None of the leading mental health professionals in attendance at the
    >meeting made any complaints about Goodwin's remarks.
    >6. The lack of evidence for these assertions is discussed in Breggin and
    >Breggin, The War Against Children.
    >7. As Elliot Currie commented on the ADAMHA document in the Journal of NIH
    >Research, "Most strikingly, it repeatedly affirms-without supporting
    >evidence-the importance of genetic predispositions in explaining inner-city
    >violence, as if the assertion of those connections were not controversial."
    >In the March 1993 issue, Sullivan rebutted Currie and Currie answered his
    >8. NlH's National Center for Human Genome Research (the Human Genome
    >Project) funded the project through its Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues
    >Program (ELSI).
    >9. Eugenics, the use of coercive government policies to improve the genetic
    >stock of a society, is discussed further in Breggin and Breggin, The War
    >Against Children.
    >10. Did NIH and its giant parent agency, the Department of Health and Human
    >Services (DHHS), cave in before one person's-really one couple's-criticism?
    >While we started the ball roiling and worked hard to educate the public and
    >the professions, many organizations and individuals-especially from the
    >African-American community-joined the avalanche of criticism against both
    >the violence initiative and the conference. That opposition remains active
    >11. Testosterone level differences among individual men are not correlated
    >with violence. The Earls study did carry out testosterone studies, but then
    >declared it was giving up all biologically intrusive interventions in
    >response to our campaign against them.
    >Andy, O. J. (1966). Neurosurgical treatment of abnormal behavior. American
    >Journal of Medical Sciences 252:232-238.
    >Andy, O. J. (1970) Thalamotomy in hyperactive and aggressive behavior.
    >Confinia Neurologica 32, 322- 325.
    >Bird, D. (1968, August 4). More stress urged on causes of civil disorders.
    >New York Times, p. 19.
    >Breggin, P. (1991). Toxic psychiatry. New York: St. Martin's Press.
    >Breggin, P. and Breggin G. (1994). The War Against Children: How the drugs,
    >programs, and theories of the psychiatric establishment are threatening
    >America's children with a medical 'cure' for violence. New York: St.
    >Martin's Press.
    >Breggin, P. and Breggin G. (1994). Talking back to Prozac. New York: St.
    >Martin's Press.
    >Earls, E (1991). A developmental approach to understanding and controlling
    >pediatrics 5,61-88. New York: Plenum Press.
    >Kaimowitz v. Department of Mental Health. (1973, July 10). Civil Action No.
    >73-19434-AW (Wayne County, Michigan, Circuit Court).
    >Mark, V. and Ervin, F. (1970). Violence and the brain. New York: Harper &
    >Mason, B. J. (1973, February). Brain surgery to control behavior:
    >Controversial operations are coming back as violence curbs. Ebony, Vol.
    >XXVII, No. 4, p. 63.
    >Mednick, S. A., Brenna, P. and Kandel, E. (1988). Predisposition to
    >violence. Aggressive Behavior 14, 25- 33.
    >Rodgers, J. E. (1992). Psychosurgery: Damaging the brain to save the mind.
    >New York: HarperCollins.
    >Rodin, E. (1972, March 27). A neurological appraisal of some episodic
    >behavior disturbances with special emphasis on aggressive outbursts. Exhibit
    >AC-3 in Kaimowitz. Date is from the exhibit stamp. The document is undated.
    >Rosenfeld, A. (1968, June 21). The psychobiology of violence. Life, pp.
    >Trials of war criminals before the Nuernberg military tnbunal, volumes / and
    >11 (October 1946-April 1949). Washington, DC: U. S. Government Printing

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